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Children, Parents and Managing Emotions

When children learn to manage their emotions in childhood, it leads to positive attitudes and behaviors later in life. Children who learn healthy ways to express and cope with their feelings are more likely
to:

  • Be empathic and supportive of others
  • Perform better in school and their career
  • Have more positive and stable relationships
  • Have good mental health and well-being
  • Develop resilience and coping skills
  • Feel more competent, capable and confident
  • Have a positive sense of self

Learning how to help your child identify, express and manage their emotions starts with helping your child express their feelings. Here’s how:

Cues – Sometimes feelings can be hard to identify. Tune into your child’s feelings by looking at their body language, listening to what they’re saying and observing their behavior. Figuring out what they feel and why, means you can help them identify, express and manage those feelings better.

Behind every behavior is a feeling – Try to understand the meaning and feeling behind your child’s behavior. You can help your child find other ways to express that feeling once you know what is driving the behavior.

Name the feeling – Help your child name their feelings by giving them a label. Naming feelings is the first step in helping children learn to identify them. It allows your child to develop an emotional vocabulary so they can talk about their feelings. Happy, sad, confused, lonely, frustrated, angry, embarrassed, scared, excited, etc.

Identify feelings in others – Provide lots of opportunities to identify feelings in others. You might ask your child to reflect on what someone else may be feeling. Cartoons or picture books are a great way to discuss feelings and this helps children learn how to recognize other people’s feelings.

Be a role model – Children learn about feelings and how to express them appropriately by watching others. Show and tell your child how you’re feeling about different situations and how you deal with those feelings.

Normalize feelings – Praise your child when they talk about their feelings or express them in an appropriate way. Not only does it show that feelings are normal and it’s ok to talk about them, it reinforces the behavior so they are likely to repeat it.

Listen to your child’s feelings – Stay present and resist the urge to make your child’s bad feelings go away. Support your child to identify and express their feelings so they are heard. When feelings are minimized or dismissed, they will often be expressed in unhealthy ways.

Linda Glaser is the Director of Social & Emotional Education for the Community Circle LA Program and a member of the EQuip Our Kids! Speaker Bureau.

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Seize the Moment to Talk About Social-Emotional Learning

Parents and businesses can be effective partners in promoting social and emotional learning (SEL) within their family, business and school environments. At home they can create opportunities by modeling its principles with their children.  At work businesses can work to align their policies with diversity benchmarks. 

But at school, where the opportunities may look more like challenges because teachers and administrators are often balancing competing  priorities, getting and keeping their attention to talk about SEL-based curriculum can feel like a fruitless attempt.

Break Your Message Into Short Call-For-Action Suggestions

To find a conversational opening, parents and businesses can borrow a common teacher technique:  Break their message into short call-for-action suggestions that teachers and administrators can act on without stretching their resources. 

For example, they can take cues from ten indicators listed in a recent study developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning [CASEL]. These indicators, shown below, describe what a comprehensive SEL implementation looks like. Schools that don’t already offer comprehensive SEL probably won’t be able to implement everything that’s missing all at once.

Here we offer a simple call-for-action suggestion related to each indicator:

Indicator of Comprehensive SELCall to Action: Encourage Your Schools To…
1. Explicit SEL InstructionCelebrate cultural holidays
2. SEL integrated with academic instructionIncorporate cross-cultural music studies into lesson plans
3. Youth voice and engagementEngage students in a key-decision-making activity
4. Supportive school and classroom climatesEncourage inter-classroom activities
5. Focus on adult SELEncourage inter-staff activities
6. Supportive disciplineAssess whether current discipline policies are equally applied and restorative.
7. A continuum of integrated supportsEncourage SEL buy-in among staff at all levels
8. Authentic family partnershipsSuggest activities where parents can partner with school staff
9. Aligned community partnershipsInclude a community organization in a school SEL-oriented event
10. Systems for continuous improvementSuggest a process for measuring progress in SEL implementation

Appeal to Their Competitive Spirit

When encountering resistance, parents may want to try the time-tested technique of appealing to the school’s competitive spirit:  To aid their study, CASEL received survey responses from approximately 1,200 K–12 classroom teachers and 1,100 school principals.  Seventy-six percent of the principals and 53 percent of teachers nationally reported that their schools used a social and emotional learning (SEL) program or SEL curriculum materials in the 2021–2022 school year. 

There has never been a better time to join this growing movement.

If you want more ideas about how to talk with your schools about SEL, check out our guides for parents and for businesses.

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Four Ways to Grow Your Child’s Social and Emotional Skills This School Year

As we head into another post-quarantine school year, you might be wondering how to best support your child’s academic development alongside their wellbeing. One of the best ways to do this is to focus on social emotional learning (SEL).

Boosting a kid’s social and emotional skills helps them excel in academics as well as in other parts of life now and in the future.

Here are four ways to incorporate SEL into your home routines. 

Let your child know what the goal is and create opportunities for them to explore and practice. Talk to your child about the skill you’re helping them develop, explain the importance of that skill, and point out situations where the child can use or practice the skill. 

For example: You notice that your child gets frustrated and leaves the table when learning something new. 

  • When they are calm, ask what they feel in their body when a task feels too hard, is just right, is too easy. 
  • Together, come up with a few strategies they can use to calm down when they begin to notice they are feeling upset.
  • Throughout lessons, ask them to check in with their bodies and practice the calm down strategies as needed.

Talk about situations that elicit big feelings before they occur.  Anticipate moments that will be most challenging for your child. Prepare them for what’s coming, talk about big feelings that might arise, and brainstorm strategies they can use to regulate.

For example: You’re helping your child with a new learning task that you think might frustrate them.

  • Make a schedule so they know what to expect (I’d suggest sandwiching the frustrating task between tasks your child can do easily and enjoys).
  • Look at the schedule together and ask your child how they think they might feel doing each of the activities listed.
  • Together, come up with a list of strategies they can use to manage any big feelings (such as deep breaths, a walk outside, or a special signal they use to let you know they’re upset).  Remind them that you are there for support.

Have your child help you come up with examples and non-examples. Be explicit about what it looks like to demonstrate a specific SEL skill.  Together, make a list of behaviors that align with the goal, and a list of behaviors that don’t.

For example: Your child is getting ready to have a friend over, so you want them to think about being a good host.

  • First, have your child identify how they are feeling about having the friend over and ask them how they think the friend might be feeling about the playdate.
  • Have them name a few strategies they can use to keep themselves regulated during the playdate so they can have fun.
  • Talk about how they could help their friend feel safe and welcome (e.g., picking out a few games the friend likes, showing them where the bathroom is when they arrive) and a list of things they could do that would NOT make their friend feel welcome (e.g., hogging all of the toys, not offering any snacks). 

Model positive social skills and emotion management.  Children take their cues from adults, so we need to walk our talk when it comes to SEL. This doesn’t mean we need to get it right 100% of the time. When kids see adults making mistakes, taking responsibility for them, and trying to do things differently the next time, they learn to do the same.

For example: Your child sees you get upset and raise your voice to someone in the household.

  • Name the emotion you’re feeling, find a strategy to self-regulate (take a walk, a deep breath), and tell your child “I’m feeling ___________ so I’m doing ___________ to calm myself down.”
  • Once you’re calm, remind your child that it’s okay to have all kinds of emotions and explain how your emotions affected your behavior (for example, “I was getting really mad and it was hard for me to control the tone of my voice.”)
  • Talk to your child about how you will repair the situation or what you hope to do differently next time.

As you’re helping your kid with homework or reflecting on their progress during the school year, ask yourself: How will I be able to tell if my child has developed a particular SEL skill?  What will I see them doing, or not doing?

Asking and answering these questions requires you to build your own self-awareness and empathy. That way, you can offer your children the guidance they need to grow as social and emotional beings. 

Dr. Gwen Bass is an educational consultant, parenting coach, and member of the EQuip Our Kids! speaker bureau.  Her work focuses on social-emotional learning, trauma-informed education, culturally responsive teaching, positive identity development, and special education.

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How Counseling Can Help Children Sort Their Emotions

Growing up and experiencing change isn’t easy for kids to deal with. As a parent, you may also struggle with communicating with your child about the challenges they face.

Mental health providers can bridge this gap by working with your child through these difficult emotions, helping them express themselves in an appropriate and respectful way. In addition, a counselor can also give parents insight into what their child is going through and improve communication with them.

The help of a counselor can foster social-emotional learning (SEL), which is an ideal method for improving emotional intelligence, fostering empathy, self-management, and self-awareness. Our post on “5 Examples of Emotional Intelligence That Start in Pre-K” shares that exercising these skills is an important lifelong practice that helps children build good relationships.

Why are mental health providers important?

Over the last few years, changes in society have made it even more difficult for children to socialize and express themselves. A study on “The Impact of Social Isolation and Loneliness on the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents in the Context of COVID-19” found that children who have been socially isolated have more negative emotions to handle. In most cases, parents have helped them cope with the adverse situation by building up resilience and self-management. However, sometimes professional intervention is needed to better tackle these mental health issues.

When should you seek counseling for your child?

As a parent, it can be difficult to feel that nothing seems to remedy your child’s social and emotional issues and distress. Having a mental health provider step in can help both you and your child find the right ways to cope. Counseling can identify any underlying issues that affect your child’s overall well-being, so that your family can effectively work together to better their situation. A study by the American Psychiatric Association has identified a mental health stigma attached to children and adolescents, which in turn has worsened their mental health problems. As a parent, you should overcome this stigma and prioritize the development of your child. If you’re not sure whether your child needs counseling, here are some signs you should consider:

  • Regression – Is your child returning to younger behavior they had already overcome, like bedwetting? This may happen if a major life event happens, such as a divorce or a new sibling being born.
  • Loss of interest in things they used to like – Are there any changes to your child’s interests and habits? If these behaviors happen consistently for more than two weeks, it’s good to consider professional help.
  • Defiant behavior – Has your child been having more outbursts and arguments with you? Do these behaviors continue in school?

How to find a counselor?

There are multiple avenues where children can get professional help in dealing with tough emotions. Many mental health providers are now available through telemedicine, particularly when they have a multi-state license. Insights on multi-state licensure from health platform Wheel notes how this process allows behavioral health professionals to reach more people in rural communities or treat clients outside their state of licensure. To get their license, they have to go through the national board exam and must complete a minimum amount of work hours. These standards ensure that the mental health providers are well qualified to guide children through SEL.

In turbulent times, it’s important as a parent to guide your child by teaching them how to deal with their emotions. Sometimes outside help may be needed, so hiring a mental health provider can improve the situation. By giving your child the opportunity to have external help, they can learn healthy coping mechanisms to share their feelings.

Article contributed by Rhyslinn Johannah

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Remember, School is More Than Grades

It often looks like a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

School curricula typically favor teaching kids ‘applied knowledge.’  This is the type of knowledge that can easily be tested and graded.  But this tunnel approach often backfires later when graduates enter the workforce.  According to the recruiting firm THE PRINCIPLE GROUP, such ‘soft skills’ as effective problem solving, time management  and collaboration – skills that are given less of a priority in their curricula –  are among the top eight skills that hiring managers value in 2022.

Teachable Skills  

The non-academic ingredients for success are all teachable life skills that Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum provides.  Otherwise known as EQ or Emotional Intelligence, these skills are measurable and deemed critical for creating a successful workforce, notes the National Network of Business and Industry Associations. Still just a small fraction of schools, less than 30%, include comprehensive SEL training in their curriculum.

Increasing the number of schools implementing comprehensive SEL by just one percent means approximately 400,000 more kids gaining critical skills for success in school, work, relationships, and life.

EQuip Our Kids! to the Rescue

EQuip Our Kids!,  a national nonprofit campaign, has taken the lead in raising awareness about addressing this vacuum.  We recognize that parents and businesses can be important partners in advocating for the adoption of SEL curriculum which this nonprofit aims to include in every preK – 12 classroom by 2030.

To help jump start those conversations with key school contacts, EQuip Our Kids! is now offering a free downloadable school engagement kit for parents, loaded with conversation starters and all the talking points needed to start those discussions that can influence decision-makers at the adminstration as well as teacher level to consider the critical benefits of including SEL training into their total curriculum. 

Parents can also help their children continue to  hone these SEL skills at home by taking advantage of EQuip Our Kids! weekly parenting tips

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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After a Texas School Shooting, Conservatives Blamed ‘Woke’ Programs Once Approved by Republicans

In 2018, GOP politicians promoted social and emotional education as a tool to stop mass shootings. Now some conservative activists are arguing those programs are not a solution to school violence, but a cause.

“It’s sort of ironic that these groups are throwing social emotional learning under the bus when these are the very things that our kids need now, and they need them now more than ever before,” said Donna Lord Black, who leads the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for Texas, a nonpartisan group that advocates for these programs in schools.

Read the full article

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Summer Reading to Help Sharpen Your Emotional Intelligence Skills

Summer’s extended daytime hours offer a welcome respite for parents – offering them time to pause and refuel their brain cells with a good book, a hammock and a tall drink.  Still, the most fanciful of topics rarely diverts their minds from thinking about their kids’ welfare.  Here are some page turners that can keep them reading in the right direction:

Emotional Intelligence Toolkit

This free help guide from EquipOurKids.org is chock full of tips and tools for managing stress, identifying emotional triggers, improving relationships, and gaining perspectives on how to bridge the roles of parent, wife, lover and friend. its instant stress relief suggestions and multi-level meditations (beginning, intermediate and advanced) are conveniently timed for those who can only spend 16 minutes up to a full 30 minute immersion.  

Character Lab

How do parents help their kids develop the mettle to face life’s challenges?  And the gratitude to appreciate the blessings that come their way? These questions are addressed in this free resource created by a group of scientists led by MacArthur Fellow Angela Duckworth, who share their action-based research with a series of tips and playbooks that focus on helping kids learn self-control and good judgement and decision-making.

The Don’t Get Me Started! Toolkit – Strategies for a Culturally-Challenged World

Modeling emotional intelligence is one of the most effective ways parents can illustrate this important skill.  This book offers many scenarios where readers are faced with decisions that test their level of  EQ in situations that explore the rapidly-changing mores of gender identity, cultural and generational differences and technological changes.  Authors Connie Payne and Patricia Kutza also offer a series of Workbooks where kids at the primary and secondary school level can test their EQ skills.

52 Essential Conversations

This is a game-based resource that covers a wide range of social-emotional learning topics.  Implicit bias, inclusion, equity, social and self-awareness and building healthy relationships are some of the key topics covered.

Parenting Without Power Struggles

Family therapist Susan Stiffelman shares her enlightened strategies that make it possible to think differently about that ‘third rail’ – power struggles – that so often can derail healthy family relationships.  And resolve them smartly – while staying cool, calm and connected.


Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.