7 Essential Social-Emotional Skills Every Child Needs to Thrive

The COVID-19 pandemic, characterized by isolation and social distancing measures, left many people disrupted and disconnected. Kids were not spared, and their social skills suffered significantly because they didn’t have opportunities for social interactions.

Moving forward, social-emotional learning (SEL) is critical for students and teachers. It allows children to cultivate social skills and relationships with their peers, siblings, teachers, and others, as well as manage their emotions. With SEL, kids can solve problems, develop empathy, control behavioral problems, and enhance academic skills.

Since children develop most of their social skills and relationships in school, SEL skills and activities should be taught in classrooms as well. Read on to learn the seven social-emotional skills kids need to thrive.

  1. Empathy

With empathy, kids can understand and relate with others in school, at home, and in their personal lives. Empathy promotes acceptance and tolerance, cultivates social relationships, encourages social harmony, and promotes mental health and happiness.

Here are a few SEL activities you can use to help kids develop empathy

  • Teach kids how to notice other people’s feelings 
  • Put emphasis on helping others
  • Read stories that display the power of empathy
  • Use pretend play
  • Draw and model emotions
  • Encourage journaling
  • Teach kindness towards animals
  1. Self-Awareness

In this important social-emotional skill, kids should understand the things that make them who they are, such as their values, personality, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. They need to learn and appreciate their strengths, weaknesses, passions, aspirations, and triggers. Self-aware kids tend to be more creative and confident, build strong relationships, make good decisions, and communicate effectively.
A good way for students to develop self-awareness is to have them create a list of their positive attributes. For instance, I am cheerful, creative, resilient, smart, etc. Kids can also build social awareness by communicating freely, identifying and using their strengths, keeping a journal, expressing their feelings, and trying new things.

  1. Conflict Resolution

Like adults, kids find themselves in conflict and must learn how to handle it. In such scenarios, teachers and parents should play an active role in teaching kids conflict resolution. The first step in conflict resolution is calming down – a child can’t handle a problem when their emotions are over the roof. Taking deep breaths, splashing water on the face, and cuddling with a pet can help.

It is best to identify the source of the conflict and brainstorm the best solutions. The ideal solution is not always one that lets the child win and feel good; instead, it should fix the problem most rationally.

Here are some of the ways to help develop this crucial skill:

  • Games – They can engage in conflict situations safely.
  • Creative Writing – Tell them to write a story with a problem and a potential solution.
  • Think Before Reacting – Ask them to think about the repercussions before reacting or responding to any conflict. 
  • Being Empathetic – Tell them to consider someone else’s opinion, feelings, and concerns.
  • Avoiding adverse resolutions like name-calling, violence, etc.
  1. Responsible Decision-making

Responsible decision-making is settling for constructive choices regarding personal behavior and social interactions. It helps students increase their independence, confidence, and responsibility. Also, this skill fosters self-exploration, offers more life control, and alleviates anxiety.  

In the classroom, teachers can teach students responsible decision-making skills by giving them choices in a broad range of contexts. For instance, you can ask about safe and unsafe behaviors. Similarly, tell them about the consequences of certain decisions on themselves and others. This helps them to understand the consequences of their actions and thoughts.

  1. Self-Management

Kids must be able to regulate their thoughts, behaviors, and actions to thrive in modern society. Self-management has numerous positive outcomes for self-esteem, well-being, relationships, and goals. It allows children to participate in classroom activities, solve problems, and portray self-discipline and motivation.   

With strong self-management, children learn to embrace their strengths, approach challenges with a healthy attitude, nurture relationships, and handle stress. In addition, they can set goals for continuous improvement. 

  1. Relationship Skills

“No man is an island” seems like an old cliché but is a reality. Therefore, kids must learn relationship-building skills early to make and maintain healthy and productive relations. These skills are developed through clear communication, empathy, active listening, and emotional intelligence.

Teachers can help children develop relationship skills in several ways, including:

  • Promoting group activities
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Playing games
  • Showing concern for others
  • Encouraging collaborative problem-solving
  • Roleplay
  • Developing a buddy system
  1. Social Awareness

Every child must have social awareness skills in the increasingly multicultural world to empathize with people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and geographical regions. Children with strong social awareness skills can communicate effectively, adapt to different cultures seamlessly, resolve conflicts quickly, and rarely engage in disruptive behaviors.

Teachers can inculcate social awareness skills by teaching diversity in classrooms. During read-aloud story times, they can choose books and stories on different cultures, religions, backgrounds, and ethnicities. After this, they should ask what the students learned and the implications. Also, celebrate diversity by having students share family stories and recipes to introduce others to their culture.


SEL is more critical today than ever. It helps kids cultivate social skills, nurture relationships, and manage their emotions, thus creating a positive learning environment. 

By learning the social-emotional skills above, kids can become better learners, friends, siblings, and citizens!     

Moreover, SEL equips children with the tools they need to navigate the complexities of our ever-changing world with empathy and resilience.