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The Social- Emotional Connection to Kindness

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Fostering acts of kindness is more important for humanity than ever before. Teaching kindness at all age levels supports social and emotional development and growth. 

Understanding the connection between social-emotional learning and kindness will help you to encourage these skills in children, whether at home or in the classroom.

SEL and Kindness

The benefits of social and emotional learning (SEL), including improved academic performance, social skills, and attitudes, have been proven to be effective and long-lasting. In addition, SEL can reduce emotional distress, conduct problems, and drug use.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) offers this great infographic on how SEL builds life skills.

Acts of kindness can support social and emotional learning areas. Activities that focus on improving relationship skills, such as active listening, conflict resolution, collaboration, and fostering empathy, encourage kindness.

To support the connection between SEL and kindness, parents and teachers alike can explore the following options.  

  • Model kindness by setting and mirroring the example.
  • Explain what empathy is and show how to be empathetic.
  • Encourage children to give compliments to others.
  • Discuss how acts of kindness make children feel and how others feel when someone is kind to them.  
  • Celebrate kind acts. 

For more ideas on teaching kindness, check out this resource from PBS and visit the We Teach Kindness website.

Kindness Contagion

Kindness is a bug children want to catch, and there's science to back it up. Studies have shown that acts of kindness can boost the chemical messenger in the brain known as dopamine, which increases euphoria. This reaction is known as a “helper’s high.”

Additionally, acts of kindness can increase serotonin levels, which contribute to mood regulation. Kind gestures also heighten oxytocin levels. Known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin helps kids bond to others and their community.

If those aren’t enough reasons to be kind, consider these health benefits of bestowing kindness.

This infographic from the organization Random Acts of Kindness and Dartmouth University outlines why kindness is good for your health.

Kindness Acts

Being kind doesn’t mean you have to perform a grand gesture. Small achievable acts, like holding the door for someone, offering to take a shopping cart back into a store, or sharing a box of crayons, can easily spread kindness among others. If you need ideas, this list 50 small acts of kindness can get you started.  

And remember, being kind to yourself is just as important as being kind to others.

Amanda Clear2

Amanda Clear is an analyst on the Lincoln Learning Business Operations Team and has been with the company for six years. Her work includes managing accreditation efforts and conducting surveys for the organization. Amanda holds a master's degree in applied organization psychology from the University of Southern California. She is married with two young sons. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and baking with her family and reading.