I was sitting in my office after a long day of work. Since the start of the pandemic, I have been inundated by the increase in youth anxiety, depression, irritability, lack of motivation, social loneliness, and more. I knew that more needed to be done to help support children and teens who were missing out on important events in their lives, struggling to develop the skills needed for launching into successful independent individuals. It was during my exasperation with the situation that I knew we needed to create a roadmap to help our youth thrive.
Over the past decade, youth mental health has become an increasingly challenging situation. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 children present with behavioral and learning issues. These numbers tell me that something is fundamentally wrong. Since the pandemic, more than 1 in 3 teens present with depression and hopelessness. This alarming jump prompted the U.S. Surgeon General to issue an advisor on mental health among youth. But what are we to do?
Social-emotional learning (SEL) became the clear answer in my search for answers and collaboration with my colleagues. The outcomes of studies related to SEL have shown incredibly positive effects, which is needed with today’s crisis. I know that many of you have heard about SEL and see it as one of those things they sometimes do or talk about in school. However, we need SEL skills and tools to be used across families, schools, and our broader communities. Imagine an environment where children receive support to understand themselves, create goals, feel confident, respect others, and develop meaningful connections with those around them. Today, I will share about SEL so that you too can advocate for it in your schools, practice it in your families and communities, and help our youth gain the skills they need to feel comfortable and confident in their present and future.
What is Social and Emotional Learning?
Social and emotional learning consists of five key components that are integral to emotional development:
- Self-Awareness – Identifying emotions, recognizing strengths, and having self-confidence. Children and adolescents can grow their self-awareness by understanding their emotions, identifying their strengths and attributes, and thinking through how they have met challenges and how those challenges help them grow.
- Self-Management – Controlling impulses, managing stress, having self-discipline, setting goals, and having organizational skills. Embracing mindfulness and establishing specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound goals can help develop self-management skills.
- Responsible Decision Making – Learning to identify problems, analyze situations, solve problems, reflect, and understand ethical responsibility. One of the best ways to develop responsible decision-making skills is by tying today’s choices to future goals.
- Relationship Skills – Being able to communicate effectively, resist negative pressures, resolve conflicts, and support one another through teamwork. Listening with empathy, being specific with communications, and using a respectful tone is essential.
- Social Awareness – Understanding others’ perspectives, appreciating differences, and respecting others. Taking time to do for others and engaging in service projects help to develop this skill.
There are so many ways to help facilitate these skills across settings. By keeping these goals in mind and behaving consistently in a way that helps build these skills, you can make a huge impact!
Why is Social and Emotional Important?
Social and emotional learning is an integral part of education and human development. We know that social and emotional learning empowers students by giving them skillsets that directly impact their academic lives and can affect their success and happiness as adults.
A meta-analysis conducted by the Collaborative for Academic and Social-Emotional Learning shows that SEL programs help students to:
- Develop healthy identities and promote self-esteem
- Manage emotions while achieving personal goals
- Feel and show empathy for others
- Improve problem-solving skills & learning competencies
- Establish and maintain supportive relationships
- Improve competencies like persistence in the face of challenges
- Increase positive social interactions
- Result in higher grades and scores on achievement tests
Ways to Foster Social and Emotional Learning
Strategies at School:
- Organize guest speakers to provide training for your teachers and students
- Celebrate diversity in the classroom and community
- Model the behaviors you seek and connect with empathy
- Implement trusted SEL curriculum
Strategies at Home:
- Be a good listener and reflect back what your children have shared with you
- Nurture your child’s self-esteem and label their strengths
- Respect differences and ask them to explain situations from their point of view
- Take advantage of support services
For more support related Social and Emotional Learning or to learn about our Post COVID Seminar Series, Launching with Social and Emotional Learning Tools, email firstname.lastname@example.org.