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.

Why Do People Have Repressed Anger?

  • People’s habitual way of dealing with anger falls into one of two sets of patterns—externalising it or internalising it.
  • As people who repress anger divert their anger toward themselves, they often suffer from depression, anxiety, and somatisation.
  • When a person represses anger, they may find that many of their other desirable feelings also get numbed out.

Anger is a natural emotion and has to be processed in one way or the other. Normally, people’s habitual way of dealing with anger falls into one of two sets of patterns—externalising it or internalising it.

When these patterns are held in a rigid way or used excessively, there can be detrimental health consequences.

Internalised anger is also known as repressed anger, and it can take different forms. In this article, we will discuss what causes people to repress anger.

When people think of anger, externalised forms of anger often come to mind—someone shouting, hitting something, or acting in an aggressive way. Therefore, many people mistakenly equate anger with aggression. However, being angry does not have to mean someone lashes out.

Externalised anger is not always unhealthy. Healthy expression of anger can help us set boundaries, assert our rights and protect ourselves. People who do not internalise or repress their anger know it when they feel it. Once they have expressed their anger, either through speech or behaviours, the feeling leaves their system. It does not get stuck in the body, remain stuck, or fester. For people who repress their anger, however, the opposite happens.

Repressed Anger and Not Being Able to Get Angry

People who internalise anger hold it within their bodies and psyche. They may direct anger toward themselves and get aggressive toward themselves. They may carry all responsibilities for any conflicts in relationships, blame themselves excessively, and do not assert themselves even when they should. As they divert their anger toward themselves, they often suffer from depression, anxiety, and somatisation (emotions turning into bodily pain or physical ailments).

The problem is that, although it is unconscious, it takes a lot of energy to suppress and re-divert anger. Therefore, people with repressed anger may find that they rarely feel angry, but experience chronic tiredness.

Another problem is that on the flip side of anger are positive human feelings such as love, excitement, and passion. When a person suppresses anger, they may find many of their other desirable feelings get numbed out too. They find it difficult to get excited or passionate; they may also be disconnected from their own needs and desires.

A young person can also hold repressed anger. When they do, they may have coping mechanisms such as self-harming, selective mutism, or restrictive eating. There is no channel for them to express how they feel, and they could not afford to express anger toward their parents who can’t tolerate it. The only way to cope, therefore, is to blame themselves for feeling angry. When these children grow up, they are more prone to suffering from disorders related to internalisation, such as quiet borderline personality disorder or chronic depression.

Another well-known fact about repressed anger is that it can cause physical strain on our bodies. Holding back anger creates inner tension, which can then cause a wide range of psychosomatic ailments, such as indigestion, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, frequent migraines, and even cancer.

Reasons for Repressed Anger

People do not choose to repress their anger voluntarily. While their innate temperaments play a role (“nature” factors), it is normally the result of a person’s childhood experiences (“nurture” factors) and social/cultural conditioning. One may have learned to repress their anger because, as a child, they were discouraged, punished, shamed, silenced, or ignored when they tried to express themselves.

What to Know About Social-Emotional Development

Many parents have heard the term “social-emotional development,” but what does it mean in the real world?

Put simply, social-emotional development refers to children’s ability to “experience, manage and express” their feelings, build relationships and actively explore their environment, according to a 2005 report from the nonprofit Zero to Three.

Managing one’s behavior, expressing emotions appropriately and developing empathy are all part of the journey.

It’s “understanding how our bodies and minds feel and think in relationship to the world around us,” says Mary Hadley, a speech-language pathologist in Texas who has spent 15 years helping adults and children communicate.

Children record many physical and mental milestones, especially in their first few years of life. Likewise, social-emotional skills grow throughout childhood and adolescence – also with milestones – and can be just as important.

Dr. Toya Roberson-Moore, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, says that social-emotional development relates to brain health, making it an element of both physical and mental health. Human development takes place simultaneously across many related areas, and it can look different for each child.

Social-emotional development changes as a child grows. A mother providing a feeling of safety for her baby begins the child’s process of healthy social-emotional development. Toddlers engage in pretend play and learn how to interact positively with others. As children enter school, they develop the ability to regulate their emotions and work well with others.

Just as children never stop learning, social-emotional development doesn’t stagnate. It builds as youngsters progress through school, allowing them to relate to others and handle challenges in healthy ways. For example:

  • Elementary school. In elementary school, social-emotional development often focuses on executive functioning skills, Hadley says, such as memory and self-control. Students engage in play-based skills, learn to advocate for themselves and practice empathy for others. When children feel safe and calm, Hadley says, parents can work on helping them recognize how their emotions feel and how to regulate themselves.
  • Middle school. Development in middle school looks similar, Hadley says. “We can teach students to be aware that the way their body and minds feel will affect their social communication,” she says. The goal is to help children understand that everyone experiences emotions, both good and bad. Yet, while middle-schoolers can verbalize their feelings, they also sometimes hide their concerns, Roberson-Moore says. They may feel ashamed of their emotions or want to avoid burdening others. This can raise additional challenges.
  • High school. “At the high school level, relationships with peer groups become very important,” says Kelly Oriard, a family therapist and co-founder of Slumberkins, a company that makes emotional learning products. As teenagers figure out where they fit in the world, it is normal and healthy for them to establish an identity outside of their family. That often means managing friendships, dating, workplace colleagues and other more complicated relationships.

When it comes to social-emotional development, parents are a primary resource for children, and experts say there are many ways to help. Here are some suggestions:

Getting Stuck in Negative Emotions and Relationship Patterns

  • Our current moods set up “emotional filters” that only let thoughts, memories, and emotions that are congruent with those moods through.
  • Competing (maybe positive) thoughts, memories, and emotions get filtered out by your attentional system when you are feeling down.
  • Developing emotional intelligence and learning to direct your attention and thoughts away from negative cues can let you shift your experience.

You are having a bad day. Like most days lately, you feel anxious and worried — maybe even a bit hopeless and depressed. Nothing seems to be going right. You might think, “My life just sucks.”

Now ask yourself: Why do I have to wake up tomorrow feeling the same way I did today? The truth is that you don’t.

Changing Your Negative Experience and Thoughts

The main reason for the continuation of negative experience lies in how your brain’s attention and memory systems work. But each day you wake up, you don’t have to tell yourself the same painful story.

What if you lost your memory overnight and forgot the painful experiences and tortured thoughts you were having today. Would you still feel sad and anxious? I think not. You would literally wake up with a new outlook on life — one that is fresh and clean.

At this point, you might wonder if I am suggesting staying in negative circumstances. But that is not at all the case. If you woke up in a negative environment and experienced pain, you would probably get out of there and change your environment. So, why don’t you? If you say it is not that simple, then you probably need to consider whether the problem is with the situation or with the story you are telling yourself about it.

For example: Let’s say that this afternoon I have a disagreement with my wife about how to handle a behavior problem with one of our children. I then have a difficult conversation with that child in front of my wife. The result might be that the child has a strong negative emotional experience, I feel bad and dysregulated, and my wife feels bothered that she had to witness the exchange and see her child have a negative experience.

You might know people who would bounce back from this and 30 minutes later it is like nothing happened. You also might know people for whom the negative experience lasts all day or beyond. If I or my partner are in depressive mood states, we might perceive more negative emotions in each other and respond to each other assuming disapproval or bad feelings where they need not (or may not) really exist.

Our current moods set up “emotional filters” that only let thoughts, memories, and emotions that are congruent with those moods through. Competing (maybe positive) thoughts, memories, and emotions get filtered out.

In a recent paper on happiness at Widener University, clinical psychology doctoral students David Albert, Amanda Blazkiewicz, Ariful Karim, and Ariana Swenson, uncovered the following:

Research has demonstrated that when we are socially anxious or otherwise in a negative mood state, we are more likely to perceive that others are in negative mood states even when they are actually feeling neutral or happy (Garcia & Calvo, 2014). Obviously, if we think that others are looking at us with negative expressions, we are likely to tell ourselves a negative story that will further increase our own bad feelings.

Another study by Beevers et al. (2009) showed that, when people are in more negative moods, they are likely to perceive more negative moods in others. The authors of this study suggested that partners of those who are depressive might need to regularly focus on exaggerating their positive expressions in order to compensate for this effect. Over time, this might cause undue stress on the relationship and lead to more negative feelings. So, you can see that over time being in a negative mood could actually increase the chance that you will get even more depressed and less likely that you will be able to shift your focus to positive experiences.

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

Kids with obesity need acceptance from family and friends, not just better diet tips

Kids with obesity need acceptance from family and friends, not just better diet tips

Hundreds of programs over the past four decades—from the removal of junk food from school vending machines to Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign—have tried to get kids in the U.S. to eat healthier food and exercise more often.

But none of these efforts lowered national child obesity rates. In fact, child obesity has continued to increase. This has been particularly true during the pandemic.

We think we know why. Most programs that seek to lower children‘s body mass index, or BMI, focus on healthy food and physical activity. But as child obesity researchers who specialize in human development and family science, we know that slimming down requires much more than attention to diet and exercise.

Those factors are important, but we found that acceptance from family and friends also plays a critical role in slowing the rate of weight gain for children with obesity.

To reach this conclusion, we collaborated with colleagues to follow almost 1,200 children in first through fourth grades in rural Oklahoma to find out more about the lives of kids who are overweight or obese. Our intervention programs allowed us to compare a traditional food and exercise approach to managing child obesity with approaches that also targeted the social and emotional aspects of children’s lives.

Family and peer acceptance

We conducted a randomized controlled trial in 29 Oklahoma schools. More than 500 first graders who were at-risk for obesity—meaning their BMI was above the 75th percentile—were assigned to either a control group or a group that received a combination of three interventions.

These interventions focused on family lifestyle, family dynamics and the peer group.

The family lifestyle intervention focused on healthy food and physical activity. Participants learned to use a color-coded food reference guide similar to this one when selecting food. Parents tracked their children’s food consumption and physical activity, and also learned how to avoid conflict over food. This conflict might involve arguing about how much the child is eating, whether the child can have dessert or whether the child has eaten enough of everything else on the table to get a second helping of a favorite food.

The peer group intervention taught social acceptance in the children’s school classrooms. Our research has shown that the more children weigh, the more their classmates tend to dislike them. However we’ve also demonstrated that we can decrease the rejection that happens in elementary school classrooms by teaching children to be more accepting of one another.

Effect on obesity

We measured children’s heights and weights at the beginning of first grade and then after the intervention—in first, second, third and fourth grades. Only those children with obesity who received all three interventions—family lifestyle, family dynamics and peer group—had significant decreases in BMI gains compared with the control group.

Ongoing analysis indicates that the peer group intervention was particularly important for children who were severely obese, with a BMI in the 99th percentile.

Our results show that to reduce BMI gains in the early school years, kids need more than healthy food and physical activity. They need parents who encourage their healthy choices and accept their emotions. Knowing you can come home and talk about how angry and sad you are is essential to healthy physical and mental growth. And children must also have friends and peers who accept them for who they are—regardless of how much they weigh.