SEL with Families & Caregivers

A systemic approach integrates SEL across all key settings where students live and learn.

Families are children’s first teachers and essential to promoting social and emotional learning (SEL) throughout a child’s life. When educators and families work together, they can build strong connections with each other that reinforce social and emotional skills developed in the home, in schools, and in their communities.

Through supportive relationships and home environments, families model and practice SEL with their children. As experts in their children’s development, interests, cultures, and strengths, families are also important advocates for SEL at their child’s school. Families and caregivers can also be critical partners in shaping SEL implementation in schools.

This page focuses on the role of families and caregivers in promoting SEL, as well as partnerships and tools to support these efforts.

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I want [my daughter] to be supported socially. I want her to be supported academically. I want her to be supported emotionally. And I want to know that there is cultural competency or cultural humility in the staff, that there is an awareness that they know the demographics they are dealing with.
Parent, Washington D.C.

What have we learned?

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Two-way partnerships offer schools the opportunities to learn from families, and families the opportunities to learn from schools. Schools can build upon and learn from the strategies that families are already using to support SEL and leverage families’ expertise to create more inclusive school environments.

When families feel valued as partners in the school, they can also learn how to support and build on schoolwide SEL practices in their homes. Research suggests that evidence-based SEL programs are more effective when they extend into young people’s home lives (Albright & Weissberg, 2010).

These partnerships, however, are not always easy to develop and prior experiences and current school climate can have a deep impact on how willing families are to pursue partnerships with their child’s school. Families are far more likely to form partnerships with schools when the school’s norms, values, and cultural representations reflect their own experiences. For these reasons, it is important for teams to foster a culturally responsive and welcoming school environment and authentically engage families as partners in promoting students’ SEL.

How is CASEL advancing this work?

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Guidance on Building School-Family Partnerships

Our interactive, online Guide for Schoolwide SEL and District Resource Center offer free guidance, resources, tools, and templates to promote authentic family partnerships. Highlights include:

  • Communicating with families and inviting them to participate
  • Organizing opportunities for families to come together and discuss SEL topics
  • Aligning SEL strategies used at home and in school
  • Partnering with community organizations to support families

One of our School Guide tools, Strategies for Establishing School-Family Partnerships in Support of SEL, suggests ways that the SEL team can further engage families in learning about, supporting, and promoting SEL.

Collaborative Research

As a partner on The Building Equitable Learning Environments (BELE) Framework, a collaborative initiative to advance equity and excellence in education, we are striving to transform student experiences and learning outcomes. Consistent with the CASEL framework, the BELE framework emphasizes partnerships with families and caregivers, developed through trusting relationships, a shared vision, and authentic collaboration as central to equitable schools. Within this framework:

  • Families and school staff work in authentic partnerships to develop and advance a shared definition of student success
  • Families and school staff build meaningful relationships that foster mutual trust, understanding, and appreciation across cultures and other differences
  • School staff and out-of-school time partners share information and resources, and work together across schools, homes, and communities in support of student learning and development
  • Families and community members co-design and co-govern schools so that policies and practices are equitable and support all students

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