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4 Ways That Social-Emotional Learning Helps Young People's Mental Health

Group of teenagers at beach

If the last few years have taught us anything, it's that life is not easy, it's not fair, and it could push anyone over the edge if we're not careful. When we all reflect on our childhoods, I'm confident that all of us will be able to recall the first time someone made fun of us or made us feel silly, insignificant, or irrelevant. I'm sure this will be true for all of us. I wish I had been taught as a child how to deal with bullies, healthily show my feelings, and, most importantly, use simple coping skills when I started to feel uncomfortable.

One who is just eight years old cannot be expected to have complete command of their feelings and behaviors. These skills must be taught to children at a young age and honed over time. But the idea of teaching young people how to deal with problems early comes from SEL (Social-Emotional Learning). Teaching social and emotional skills to the next generation is equally as vital as teaching reading and arithmetic, particularly in a culture as complex as ours.

According to Timothy Dohrer, the head of teacher leadership at Northwestern University, "if you asked 100 CEOs what abilities they want in a new recruit, the top five competencies would be about social and emotional development, not mathematics."

According to the University of British Columbia, SEL is increasingly seen as a critical part of promoting good mental health and preventing mental health disorders in children and young adults.

In four ways, Social-Emotional Learning can help improve mental health:

1. Students learn how to control their feelings and actions.

When kids in grades K–12 learn to identify the emotions and feelings going on inside them, they are more likely to learn how to not only be aware of the feelings they are feeling but also how to deal with them, so they don't feel too overwhelmed by what's going on inside them. That makes it easier for them to cope with intense emotions and behaviors they don't think through before. For example, this could mean learning to stop, take a deep breath, and think about their triggers instead of reacting immediately.

2. Students learn how to feel what other people think.

When young people learn about their emotions and what makes them upset, they start understanding how their peers feel and see things. This skill helps them know and care about other people, no matter who they are or where they come from. This will make it easier for a child to deal with an emotional situation. When a youngster develops the ability to empathize with others, they are more likely to have strong and healthy connections with their contemporaries and adults.

3. Students learn how to find suitable solutions to problems.

We live in a society that pushes its ideas about beauty, success, and happiness. One person may experience a great deal of stress due to this. Because our peers, parents, and other people can have high expectations of us, the next generation must learn how to deal with problems as they grow and face life's challenges. By putting an emphasis on social and emotional learning, kids learn how to solve problems peacefully. This skill helps them get along with other kids and learn to tell their support system what they need.

4. Students learn how to keep relationships healthy.

SEL also teaches kids how to keep healthy relationships, one of the most critical skills in improving their mental health. We were not made to go through life by ourselves. So, our kids must learn who their support system is and how to keep those relationships going.

Anyone can have problems with their mental health, but it makes a huge difference to show the next generation that they do not have to deal with these problems on their own.

Move This World was started and is run by Sara Potler LaHayne.She also runs a podcast called "Conversations in Social and Emotional Learning," which is in its 4th season. Move This World is a social-emotional learning program that provides Pre K–12 students, teachers, and families with multi-media experiences that help students deal with the fast-changing realities of their world, both in the classroom and throughout their lives. SEL programs like MTW (Move This World), based on creative arts therapy and positive psychology, can help with movement, connection, positive mental health, and social and emotional development.


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