Social-emotional skills are a pre-requirement for learning: experts (part two)

Social-emotional skills are a pre-requirement for learning: experts

Several experts in the education system say that social/emotional learning (SEL) is an important component of formal education. Part of the pandemic response has been recognizing that learning can’t take place when children are stressed from disruption to their routines and their social connections.

Several experts in the education system say that social/emotional learning (SEL) is an important component of formal education. Part of the pandemic response has been recognizing that learning can’t take place when children are stressed from disruption to their routines and their social connections.

The Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, through their Professional Learning (STFPL) branch, highlights a framework from a US-based organization called CASEL, which stands for Collaborative Social/Emotional Learning. CASEL’s goal is to integrate SEL into every classroom. The framework has five components for self-regulation:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills
  • Responsible decision-making

The key idea behind having a focus on competencies such as those above is that social/emotional skills benefit from study and practice – much like any other skill. Authorities in abstract fields such as math, chemistry, and biology may nevertheless be unable to grow strong relationships or manage their own emotions. Research shows that emotional stability and resilience can be taught and learned at any stage, from pre-schoolers to adults. The earlier the learning, the better the outcome.

STF’s professional development branch has an upcoming workshop focused on SEL and self-regulation.

“What we offer to educators,” said Connie Molnar, an associate director with STF Professional Learning, “is both the research side – a broad view of what the most current research is saying in terms of impact and importance of social/emotional learning and self-regulation – and the teacher practice side.”

Molnar works with a group of educators called the Provincial Facilitator Community. The group researches, plans, and facilitates professional development opportunities throughout the province. Molnar and her colleagues also receive feedback from the community on what the current needs of the provinces’ teachers are.

Molnar works with a group of educators called the Provincial Facilitator Community. The group researches, plans, and facilitates professional development opportunities throughout the province. Molnar and her colleagues also receive feedback from the community on what the current needs of the provinces’ teachers are.

One of the researchers whose work is used is Dr. Bruce Perry. Perry is a senior fellow of The Child Trauma Academy and a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences.

In a 2009 YouTube video, Perry said that the brain is made up of a series of complex systems, only one of which is responsible for thinking. These systems are related to and dependent on each other. If a child is emotionally unregulated (upset, distracted, fidgety, or bored) and doesn’t have self-regulation skills and strategies, learning is that much more difficult and inefficient.

What Type of Friend Are You? How ADHD Influences Friendships

What Type of Friend Are You? How ADHD Influences Friendships

Whether you collect new friends easily or lean on a few, long-term friendships dating back to kindergarten, there’s no wrong way to build relationships. This is true especially for people with ADHD, who often report that their symptoms complicate, challenge, and color friendships. The ones that work are the ones that accept and celebrate their ADHD.

What Type of Friend Are You?

“I fall in the Selectively Acquisitive Friendship Style category; I am very careful and particular about who I label a ‘friend.’ Anybody who I don’t refer to as a friend is my ‘acquaintance.’ My ex used to laugh at this distinction, but it’s super important because it helps me decide how much time I spend with these people, and if I make an emotional investment in them. Yes, I help everyone when in need, but I will do it much more for my designated ‘friends.’” — BAT

“I’ve always migrated toward long-term friendships that can tolerate long gaps in communication, as well as friendships where we can talk for hours about things we’ve read or learned, or be just as happy sitting on the same couch each immersed in our own hyperfocuses.” — Anonymous

“My husband says I’m like a semi-truck with an engine that’s too small. I genuinely want to be friends with everyone, but I have difficulty keeping up with the logistics of maintaining friendships (due to my executive function weaknesses and anxiety). So, I have a long to-do list of people I need to text, call, email, etc.” — Anonymous

“Since I graduated from college, I have had trouble establishing friendships. I feel anxious about reaching out to potential friends outside of work or other organized activities; I worry that they will be too busy or uninterested in doing things with me. I once invited a co-worker and her husband over for dinner with me and my family. She accepted the invitation, but a few days later told me, ‘My life is too busy — I don’t have time for any more friends.’ That really stung!” — Anonymous

“I prefer intimate hangouts because boisterous get-togethers often overwhelm me. I tend to focus on a few long-term friendships, but being a military spouse means I have to be able to pick up new friends easily whenever we move.” — Anonymous

“I typically gravitate toward people who excite me. I’m also a bit co-dependent and find I search for long-term, meaningful relationships.” — Anonymous

“I’m extremely nervous around quiet people. I start to do nervous chatter, and they don’t reciprocate so I move on. I dread being around them! But I also get overstimulated in noisy environments. I like intimate hangouts with a few good friends who like to talk. I was the one who got moved in elementary school for talking too much. But then I’d make friends with the new table.” — Anonymous

“I would say I’m an ambivert. I can be really social for a few hours and then I’m socially spent. I have lots of lifelong friendships but also make spontaneous new friendships. However, I often don’t have the energy to maintain new relationships.” — Anonymous

“When I’m in good social form, I love talking with everyone. I’m a little afraid to put all of my friends together in one room because I’m not sure how well they’d get along. I love my ADHD friends because they are a less judgmental bunch. If I’m late or crazy-spontaneous or any of the other quirks that come with the territory, they get it. And they like me, for me. Recently, I realized that I’m a social chameleon who adapts to the people around me, hiding the ‘unacceptable’ parts of myself depending on the company. As a result, I’m not sure who the unvarnished, unmasked me is — I’d like to find that person. It probably would be less stressful and not so freaking isolating.” — Anonymous

“I really need friends who don’t need me to call every day or plan things regularly, but when we get together there seems like no gap in our friendship. We trust that we are always there for each other. My best friend and I could talk forever (we’re both time blind), and the subject can change mid-sentence or at least every two minutes. I am sure she has undiagnosed ADHD; we understand each other far too well!” — Glenda

How to Help Young Children Build Resilience

How to Help Young Children Build Resilience

  • Between the global COVID-19 pandemic, the associated economic downturn, last year was difficult for everyone.
  • Decades of research have documented serious consequences from chronic stress in childhood.
  • But psychologists have identified ways in which parents teach children how to cope with adversity.
  • Here’s how to teach children resilience in the new year.

Between the global COVID-19 pandemic, the associated economic downturn, and widespread protests over racism, the last few years have been difficult for everyone. Many people are struggling, consumed with anxiety and stress, and finding themselves unable to sleep or focus.

As a developmental psychologist and researcher on anxiety and fear in infants and young children, I have been particularly concerned about the impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health. Many have not physically been in school consistently since March of 2020. They’re isolated from friends and relatives. Some fear that they or loved ones will contract the virus; they may be hurt in racial violence or violence at home—or they might lose their home in a wildfire or flood. These are very real-life stressors.

Decades of research have documented serious consequences from chronic stress in childhood (McEwen, 2011). But psychologists have identified ways in which parents teach children how to cope with adversity—an idea commonly known as resilience.

The Effects of Childhood Stress

Children cannot be protected from everything. Parents get divorced. Children grow up in poverty. Friends or loved ones are injured, fall ill, or die. Kids can experience neglect, physical or emotional abuse, or bullying. Families immigrate, end up homeless or live through natural disasters.

There can be long-term consequences (Masten et al., 1990). Hardship in childhood can physically alter the brain architecture of a developing child. It can impair cognitive and social-emotional development, impacting learning, memory, decision-making, and more.

Some children develop emotional problems, act out with aggressive or disruptive behavior, form unhealthy relationships, or end up in trouble with the law. School performance often suffers, ultimately limiting job and income opportunities. The risk of suicide or drug and alcohol abuse can increase (Khoury et al., 2010). Kids who are exposed to chronic stress may also develop lifelong health issues, including heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

So how do some kids thrive amidst serious challenges, while others are overwhelmed by them? Researchers in my field are working to identify what helps children overcome obstacles and flourish when the odds are stacked against them.

It seems to come down to both support and resilience. Resilience is defined as the ability to spring back, rebound, or readily recover from adversity. It’s a quality that allows people to be competent and accomplished despite tough circumstances. Some children from difficult backgrounds do well from a young age. Others bloom later, finding their paths once they reach adulthood.

Ann Masten, a pioneer in developmental psychology research, referred to resilience as “ordinary magic.” Resilient kids don’t have some kind of superpower that helps them persevere while others flounder. It isn’t a trait we’re born with; it’s something that can be fostered.

The Key Factors That Help Kids Build Resilience

The same executive function skills that create academic success seem to bestow critical coping strategies. With the capacity to focus, solve problems, and switch between tasks, children find ways to adapt and deal with obstacles in a healthy way.

Controlling behavior and emotions is also key. In a recent study, 8- to 17-year-olds who maintained emotional balance despite mistreatment were less likely to suffer from depression or other emotional problems.

However, relationships seem to be the foundation that keeps children grounded. “Attachment relationships” provide a lifelong sense of security and belonging. A parent’s or caregiver’s consistent support and protection are crucial for healthy development and the most important of these relationships. Other caring adults can help: friends, teachers, neighbors, coaches, mentors, or others. Having steadfast support lends stability and helps kids build self-esteem, self-reliance, and strength.

How to Break the Exhausting Habit of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

How to Break the Exhausting Habit of Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

Revenge bedtime procrastination is the act of deliberately putting off sleep in favor of leisure activities — binging Netflix or scrolling TikTok, for example — that provide short-term enjoyment but few long-term life benefits. Revenge bedtime procrastination is especially likely when busy schedules and daily responsibilities prevent the enjoyment of “me time” earlier in the day. (The idea is that you’re exacting “revenge” on all of life’s stressors and obligations by delaying sleep for leisure and entertainment.)

Of course, sacrificing sleep carries its fair share of consequences — namely exhaustion, poor productivity, health ramifications, and shame. In short, revenge bedtime procrastination is an unhealthy habit – and one that may be more common and troublesome for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD).

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination: Origins, Signs, and Impact

Revenge bedtime procrastination is the approximate English translation of a Chinese expression for delaying sleep to regain freedom lost during the day. The term took off during the pandemic, as sleep problems and psychological distress collectively skyrocketed.1

Anyone can engage in revenge bedtime procrastination, but people with high-stress, busy lives and/or poor time-management skills might be more likely to put off sleep for personal time. That demographic is heavily weighted toward women, who as a group lost significant personal time during the pandemic as they took on a greater share of parenting and housework compared to men.2

Though a relatively new term, bedtime procrastination is not a new concept to researchers.3 The behavior – defined as going to bed late, absent of external reasons, and with an understanding that the delay will result in negative consequences – is conceptualized as a self-regulation problem.4 (You know what else is often described as a self-regulation problem? Yep, ADHD.)

Proper sleep is vital for functioning and overall health. That’s why inadequate sleep and poor sleep hygiene can contribute to a list of problems including:5

  • impaired cognitive functioning (memory, focus, concentration)
  • weakened immune system
  • dysregulated metabolism
  • anxiety and other mood disorders
  • increased mortality6

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination and ADHD

Why might individuals with ADHD be particularly susceptible to revenge bedtime procrastination?

Sleep Problems and ADHD

Research shows that individuals with ADHD experience problems with virtually all aspects of sleep, including:

  • difficulty falling and staying asleep7
  • daytime sleepiness3
  • Poor sleep quality and difficulty waking up8

ADHD is also associated with “increased eveningness” (preference for a later bedtime).9

Does Social-Emotional Learning Help Students Who Could Benefit the Most? We Don’t Know

Does Social-Emotional Learning Help Students Who Could Benefit the Most?

Let’s talk about what we know about social and emotional learning from the research.

SEL is understood as an interrelated set of cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills and strategies that underscore how we learn, form, and maintain supportive relationships; make empathetic and equitable decisions; and thrive both physically and psychologically.

Students today are more anxious, less connected, and more likely to have experienced trauma—a threat to their safety, agency, dignity, and belonging—than they were two years ago. And these experiences have been most profound for students marginalized by race, ethnicity, and ability. These students are more likely than their peers to have had their learning interrupted, be underserved, experience the loss of loved ones, and have their household income negatively impacted during the pandemic.

Fortunately, a significant portion of the $190 billion allocated by Congress to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund must be specifically used to “respond to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups.” Accordingly, three-quarters of states list SEL or mental health as a top priority in their plans for ESSER funding, according to a recent review from our colleagues at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

We know that high-quality, systemic SEL can help students identify emotions from social cues, set goals, consider multiple perspectives, and problem solve. We also know that SEL can reduce bullying and school suspensions and improve academic performance and school climate.

But what research hasn’t yet established is how—or even whether—universal school-based SEL programs serve students with disabilities and students of color, who are among the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the evidence for SEL’s impact on racially- and ability-marginalized youth is murky at best and nonexistent at worst because we haven’t looked deeply enough. And that’s a big problem.

To be honest, education research is riddled with descriptions of school-based interventions that, once studied, are revealed to inequitably serve students with disabilities and/or those of color. To quantify the extent of this problem, teams at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the education nonprofit EdTogether reviewed the current evidence describing whether SEL interventions are inclusive and representative. Our recent findings were nothing short of devastating.

Tips on how to nurture kindness in your children

Tips on how to nurture kindness in your children

The holidays will soon be upon us. What is likely to make you feel better – receiving a gift, or giving one to someone in need?

Research is clear that, as the proverb goes, it’s better to give than to receive.

“Doing kind things makes you feel better,” said a sociologist at the University of Toronto Andrew Miles. “It fulfills a basic psychological need, like giving our bodies appropriate food. It helps you feel like your life is valuable.”

Miles is currently leading a large, controlled study aiming to quantify the ways in which doing good may help to counter the anxiety and depression that currently undermines the health and well-being of many people in all walks of life.

And the need for kindness may have never been greater.

The economic, educational and vocational stresses associated with the pandemic continue to take a toll.

In addition, the media, the Internet, and even neighbourhood streets are often filled with physical threats and hateful remarks directed at large segments of the population. It is important to foster a child’s emotional well-being by accepting and nurturing the child you have, not trying to forcefully create the one you want Although members of minority groups, are increasingly willing to speak out against verbal and physical attacks and discrimination, many targetted individuals continue to suffer in silence.

Little wonder that rates of anxiety and depression remain high.

Children, who can readily sense the emotional distress of their caregivers, often share the pain.

But experts said there’s an antidote that could benefit everyone.

They call it “prosocial behaviour”, or acting in ways that help other people.In her recently published book, Social Justice Parenting, an associate professor of education at Florida Atlantic University Traci Baxley emphasises the rewards of teaching compassion and kindness to a new generation.Her goal in fostering a more just world for all is to raise children “who can ultimately self-advocate, empathise with others, recognise injustice, and become proactive in changing it”.Her book, which I found hard to put down, is replete with excellent examples and advice that can help parents raise children with a healthy self-image and regard for the welfare of others.She wrote, “It is our obligation to teach our children to stand up and be allies for groups that are marginalised and silenced”.

Baxley, the mother of five, told me that upon returning to school after the pandemic lockdown, many young people experienced an increase in depression and social anxiety that can be counteracted by prosocial behaviour.“Just seeing compassion and kindness in action releases chemicals in the brain that helps them calm down,” she said. “It slows the heart rate and releases serotonin that counters symptoms of depression.”Prosocial behaviour may come naturally to some. Even […]