10 Shareable Facts About Kindness, Empathy, and Social and Emotional Learning

Just in Time for World Kindness Day 2018

Kindness is a crucial element of any PreK-12 classroom environment. Educators are increasingly focused on how it can be taught, how it might be practiced on a daily basis, and how it can be instilled in every child’s life as a habit carried far outside of the classroom.

World Kindness Day aims to celebrate the importance of kindness and bring awareness to its importance in all children’s (and adult’s!) lives. To celebrate, we’ve gathered a few important facts about kindness, empathy, and social and emotional learning to help you brush up on your kindness expertise →

Teachers and parents care about kindness, and they’re worried children aren’t getting enough of it.

In a survey from Sesame Workshop, 86% of teachers and 70% of parents say they often worry that the world is an unkind place for children. (1)

Teachers want more time to spend fostering social and emotional learning skills.

According to this survey of 1,000+ educators and parents, 65% of teachers report that they need more time than they currently have to teach SEL skills.

There is room to grow in teaching children to value caring for others.

According to a recent survey from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project, 80% of children surveyed ranked happiness or high achievement as what is most important to them, and only 20% picked caring for others. While parents report that developing caring children is a priority, 80% of children in this survey believe that parents are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others. (2)

Being kind makes you happy.

Interestingly enough, kindness and happiness are in fact linked: kindness benefits those on both the receiving end and the giving end. Research shows that being kind can actually make you happy. In order to feel the benefits, kindness must be practiced consistently. (3)

Kindness promotes peer acceptance and well-being.

Kindness can also have a positive effect on other aspects of student’s lives. This study, which examined students ages nine to eleven, demonstrated that performing random acts of kindness can improve well-being and peer acceptance. (4)

Kindness can make you healthier.

There is emerging evidence that there are even health benefits to kindness. Some researchers believe that caring for others can increase a caregiver’s lifespan. (5)

Social and emotional instruction can support academic learning.

Outside of providing practice in valuable skills like kindness and empathy, social and emotional learning can also boost academic learning. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) reports students who participated in SEL programs showed an average gain on achievement test scores of 11 to 17 percent. (6)

Developing prosocial skills in kindergarten, including kindness, can lead to healthier communities later on.

Researchers who published this study in the American Journal of Public Health found a connection between social and emotional skills in kindergarten and specific outcomes in young adulthood, including in the areas of education, employment, criminal activity, and substance abuse. (7)

Kindness may be contagious.

Researchers from the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory conducted studies that illustrate that kindness might in fact be “contagious,” and that people are more likely to do kind acts when they see others being kind as well. (8)

There are many programs that can help you bring kindness to your classroom.

We recommend The Great Kindness Challenge, a free, global program suitable for grades PreK-12 that empowers learning communities to practice kindness and empathy for a designated week during the year.


(1) K Is for Kind: A National Survey on Kindness and Kids. Sesame Workshop , 2016, kindness.sesamestreet.org/view-the-results/.

(2) The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values. Making Caring Common Project: Harvard Graduate School of Education, July 2014, mcc.gse.harvard.edu/reports/children-mean-raise.

(3) Smith, Michael. “Want to Be Happy? Stop Being So Cheap!” The New Republic, 22 Sept. 2014, newrepublic.com/article/119477/science-generosity-why-giving-makes-you-happy.

(4) Layous K, Nelson SK, Oberle E, Schonert-Reichl KA, Lyubomirsky S (2012) Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being. PLOS ONE 7(12): e51380. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051380

(5) Sifferlin, Alexandra. “Caring for Others May Lead to Longer Life.” TIME, TIME, 27 Dec. 2016, time.com/4618363/longevity-care-grandparents-research/.

(6) Payton, John, et al. The Positive Impact of Social and Emotional Learning for Kindergarten to Eighth-Grade Students. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2008, pp. 5–6, The Positive Impact of Social and Emotional Learning for Kindergarten to Eighth-Grade Students.

(7) Jones, Damon E et al. “Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness” American journal of public health vol. 105,11 (2015): 2283–90.

(8) Zaki, Jamil. “Kindness Contagion.” Scientific American, 26 July 2016, www.scientificamerican.com/article/kindness-contagion/.