Children focus on enhancing their intelligence at school through activities and lessons in math, science, reading, and writing, but are your kids also learning to become more emotionally intelligent at school?

Emotional Intelligence Quotientor (EQ) is the ability to recognize, direct, and positively express emotions. It is a powerful skill that can help our children better understand themselves, overcome challenges, and build strong relationships with others throughout their lives. People with a high EQ tend to tolerate and manage challenging feelings like sadness, anger, and fear. They also accept themselves and empathize with others. Fortunately, EQ is a skill that can easily be learned.

EQ programs in schools have become more common in the last 15 to 20 years. Known as social and emotional learning (SEL), these programs help children focus on thinking, behavioral, and regulatory skills they need to interact effectively with others. According to new research at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Loyola University, SEL programs for youth not only immediately improve mental health, social skills, learning outcomes, and prosocial behaviors (such as kindness, sharing, and empathy), but they also have an ongoing benefit for the children that can last many years to come.


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In fact, according to the study, students who participated in SEL programs graduated from college at a rate 11 percent higher and from high school at a rate six percent higher. Additionally, drug use and behavior problems were six percent lower for SEL program participants, arrest rates 19 percent lower, and diagnoses of mental health disorders 13.5 percent lower.

The study analyzed results from 82 different SEL programs involving 97,406 students in kindergarten through high school in the United States, Europe, and the United Kingdom. The researchers assessed the effects at least six months after the programs were completed. They found that social-emotional learning resulted in positive effects in the classroom, but was also connected to longer-term positive outcomes. Such benefits were similar regardless of students’ race, socioeconomic background, or school location.

Social-emotional learning programs are so critical because they provide students with skills to help them succeed later in life. They teach children how to recognize and understand their emotions, feel empathy, make decisions, and build and maintain relationships. Previous research has shown that incorporating these programs into the classroom improves learning outcomes and reduces anxiety and behavioral problems among students.

The researchers involved in the study believe that teaching social-emotional learning in schools is an effective way to provide children with the experiences and skills they need to be successful in life. It can also end up promoting better public health outcomes later on. The researchers suggest that such skills be reinforced over time and be seamlessly merged into the daily school curriculum. They also point out how critical it is for social-emotional learning to take place in schools because this approach can reach all types of children, including those who are disadvantaged. Most children spend over 900 hours at school each year, so what they learn in school with their peers can often have a larger impact than what their families tell them, especially as they get older in middle and high school.

Some of the most effective SEL programs include MindUP and Roots of Empathy. They focus on developing the following key skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Does your child’s school have an effective SEL program? If not, you can work with teachers, the principal, and/or the School Board to implement an SEL program at your school.