The Importance of SEL-infused Parenting: 
An Interview with Dr. Lorilei Swanson

Dr. Lorilei SwansonDr. Lorilei Swanson, LMFT, LPC, PhD, is a regional liaison for the Upstate region of South Carolina with the Carolina Family Engagement Center. She has a lifelong passion for strengthening families with previous work experience at the National Dropout Prevention Center, International Center for Service-Learning in Teacher Education, and the School District of Oconee.

During the fourth annual international SEL Day on Friday, March 10, Swanson and SEL4SC executive director Wendy Methvin will join a virtual panel of parents and SEL experts from South Carolina and Ohio to share real-life stories and solutions for SEL-infused parenting.

An active parent and dedicated mental health practitioner committed to the understanding and importance of SEL, Swanson took time out of her busy schedule to talk to SEL4SC about the importance of authentic family-school-community partnerships and how parents can effectively grow and support the social and emotional development of their children.

SEL4SC: How would you define SEL?

Lorilei Swanson: Social emotional learning is the process through which individuals grow their interpersonal and intrapersonal knowledge and skills, effectively growing their capacity for interpreting and managing their own thoughts and emotions and successfully communicating and interacting with others.

SEL4SC: Why is it so important?

Swanson: SEL is important because it is foundational to academic achievement and overall success in school and life. Building social-emotional skills within home and school communities increases the likelihood of positive childhood experiences, and promotes positive school climates and the overall healthy development of youth.

SEL4SC: What does your day-to-day role look like?

Swanson: I work with parent, school, and community leaders in the Upstate to build capacity for authentic family-school-community partnerships to give all families the tools and resources they need to support their child’s learning and development.

SEL4SC: Why are some parents skeptical of SEL?

Swanson: According to a recent study by the Fordham Institute, parents see themselves as primarily responsible for nurturing the growth of their child’s social and emotional development. Parents see schools playing a role in their child’s social and emotional development, but they don’t want this to take away from academic learning and they prefer the term “life skills” over SEL.

SEL4SC: Why is it so important for parents to learn and model SEL?

Swanson: The development of SEL occurs within the context of relationships. Parents need to practice SEL alongside their children to effectively grow and support the social and emotional development of their children. One can not occur without the other.

SEL4SC: What kinds of success stories have you seen?

Swanson: Through a partnership between the Carolina Family Engagement Center and the South Carolina Department of Education, my colleague (Julia Beaty) and I developed three SEL family engagement kits which included family-friendly guides, activities, and all the materials needed to engage in activities to grow children’s SEL at home. We distributed nearly 20,000 kits to families across SC. We also developed five family-friendly Self-Awareness lessons aligned with CASEL’s model and piloted one lesson with 15 diverse families across SC. We heard from families that these resources positively impacted the SEL of both parents and children. Parents reported positive reactions related to the ability to pick and choose what lessons and activities they engaged in with their children, the bite-sized manageable instruction sections, and fun activities to support the learning and practice of SEL in the home.

SEL4SC: Why is there a lack of resources for parents to support SEL?

Swanson: The awareness of the importance of SEL and mental health increased significantly throughout the pandemic. The world responded by developing multiple resources for educators to support SEL in school and we are just now beginning to understand that we need to develop these same resources for parents to support SEL at home.

Parents are concerned about their child’s social and emotional well-being and they are eager to learn more about what they can do to support their children. When parents have easy access to family-friendly resources, knowledge, and tools — and they have choices about how, what, and when it is learned — the SEL in families flourishes.

SEL4SC: What do you hope attendees get out of the panel on SEL Day?

Swanson: First, we all have unique stories to share about our parenting experiences and we all have unique strengths to support the social and emotional development of our children no matter what their age. Secondly, it is never too late to grow our social and emotional skills. The more parents learn and grow in this arena, the more likely they will have a positive impact on the healthy development and life success of their children.

The free SEL Day virtual panel discussion will be held at 1 p.m. EST. Click here to register.

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