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The Emotional Intelligence Skills Parents Need to Teach Kids

Research has found that if someone feels empathy, even if it’s just from watching a touching video, it can make them feel more connected to — and generous toward — others. In other words, practicing empathy with your kids can help them grow up to be emotionally intelligent adults. Based on our 60 years of combined experience working with parents and their kids, here are some of the most effective ways to teach children empathy.

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The Secret to Raising a Resilient Kid

Resiliency is the ability to engage with a challenge, risk or impediment, and come out the other side with some measure of success. It’s a psychological principle blending optimism, flexibility, problem-solving and motivation.

 

Most experts say resiliency is something that can be fostered, nurtured, and developed in children from a very young age.

 

The ability to bounce back is more important now than ever; here’s how to impart it.

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It’s Time to Invest in SEL like STEM

Back in 2011, the US Chamber of Commerce released a report called The Case for Being Bold. This report famously laid out the need for not just increased investment in STEM education, but also the need for the business community to take a leadership role in the movement (as opposed to merely providing resources and support).

What happened next was a veritable decade-long explosion in STEM education:

  • Corporations spent more than $1 billion dollars over the next decade funding STEM education and awareness.
  • The business-led Change the Equation launched several campaigns to lead and amplify the effort to support STEM education.
  • Change the Equation created the Vital Signs benchmark to track and evaluate students’ performance in STEM subjects.
  • The STEM is Cool! campaign highlighted innovative and exciting work in STEM-related jobs
  • Privately-owned, for-profit “STEM salons” popped up across the country, selling STEM-centric courses, after school programs and even birthday parties for K-12 students.
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The business community’s dedicated campaign helped lead to a marked increase in awareness of STEM, the importance of STEM education and opportunities in related fields.

So this brings us to the next big opportunity in education: social-emotional learning and emotional intelligence.

Teaching Happiness: EQ and SEL

Emotional intelligence, or “EQ” for short, is defined as a person’s ability to be aware of, control and express their emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”.

Social-emotional learning, better known as “SEL”, is the process of learning the knowledge and skills that allow people to develop healthy identities, manage emotions, achieve goals, feel and show empathy for others, build supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

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Image courtesy of casel.org

SEL focuses on teaching five “key competencies” identified by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning:

  • Self-awareness: Being able to recognize emotions and their impact on behavior
  • Self-management: The ability to regulate thoughts, feelings and behaviors in different situations.
  • Social awareness: Understanding social norms for behavior, the ability to empathize with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and recognition of where there are sources of support.
  • Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships with a diverse range of people. These skills also include the capability to not take others’ behavior personally as well as engage in “active listening”.
  • Responsible decision-making: Being able to realistically evaluate the consequences of actions and make decisions based on social and ethical norms and the well-being of others and themselves.

SEL also helps kids learn how to analyze and solve problems, set goals and embrace challenges and setbacks as part of the growth process.

In other words, social-emotional learning equips kids with skills they can use to practice happiness throughout their lives.

The Need for Social-Emotional Learning

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But why do we need to promote SEL and emotional intelligence?

The simple fact is that the overall mental health of Americans leaves a lot to be desired and kids today are exhibiting frighteningly high levels of negative behaviors.

The need for improved emotional intelligence is simply undeniable:

  • Violence: In 2015, 22% of students reported bullying and 10 million children experienced domestic violence. The US suffers the highest rates of murder and violent assault among developed countries.
  • Mental health: In 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents experienced at least one major depressive episode. That represents 12.5% of kids aged 10 to 17 years old, and rates of reported depression and anxiety are increasing. And half of surveyed parents have described their kids as “over stressed” since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • Suicide: Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old, and suicide rates have been increasing each year over the last decade. And the COVID-19 pandemic increased the rates of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts even higher.
  • Academic performance: In 2013, 65% of all US fourth graders tested as “below proficient” in literacy, with 80% of low income students falling into that category. After years of intense focus on reading, those results remained largely flat as students suffer high rates of disengagement and lack motivation.
  • Criminalized behavior: Though popular, “zero tolerance” rules have served mostly to fill a “school-to-prison” pipeline as schools suspend, expel or prosecute students for relatively minor offenses – 2 million students are incarcerated each year. Communities of color bear the brunt of these outcomes.
  • Chronic stress: The chronic stress and trauma growing up in poverty or near-poverty takes a major toll on the academic climate and performance of more than 20 million kids each year.

The fact is, many kids today are unhappy. And these children carry this experience into adulthood.

Today’s adults report high levels of worker disengagement, on-the-job bullying and harassment, loneliness, domestic violence and lack of civic engagement.

Simply put, we are not teaching kids the skills vital to becoming happy, well-adjusted adults.

Practical benefits of social-emotional learning

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Investing in SEL to boost emotional intelligence brings benefits that  support society. That much is clear. This investment pays practical returns on investment to corporations and businesses:

It’s Time to Invest in SEL Like STEM

The need to boost investment in social-emotional learning is apparent and business leaders, much like they were with STEM education a decade ago, are in prime position to provide the necessary resources and support.

A broad ecosystem of SEL researchers, publishers, technology companies and service providers already exists. What they lack is a strong base of demand for their services.

Corporate demand and investment will drive schools to adopt comprehensive SEL programs, just as business demand and dollars drove them to adopt a comprehensive STEM curriculum.

And the best part is that we won’t need to wait 10 years to start seeing returns on this investment. High school students with just one year’s experiencing social-emotional learning will be better prepared to enter the labor force than workers without any SEL experience.

Just like with STEM education in 2011, the infrastructure for improving EQ through social-emotional learning is there. What’s needed now is the support from the business community that will lead schools to adopt SEL education at all levels.

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New study reveals surge in Anti-Asian hashtags

Hateful words continue to matter, whether they are hurled attacks in person or hashtags online. A recent study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, researched approximately 700,000 tweets and found that users that used the hashtag #chinesevirus were more likely to associate it with racist hashtags.

The increase of verbal and physical anti-Asian rhetoric has had an impact on social media, Twitter specifically.  Anti-Asian hashtags using the term “the China Virus” increased after former President Donald Trump tweeted it for two weeks in March 2020, according to a recent study. Such divisive language can encourage bias and misinformation.

Such speech also shows a lack of self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness, some of the critical tenets of Emotional Intelligence.  Hateful words can desensitize to a point where the accusers see people through their lenses as inhuman and not equal.  

According to Yuin Hswen, Professor of Epidemiology at University of California San Francisco, who contributed to the study, “These results may be a proxy of growth in anti-Asian sentiment that was not as prevalent as before. Using racial terms associated with a disease can result in the perpetuation of further stigmatization of racial groups.”

The researchers believe that the former president’s action may have influenced others to imitate his language on Twitter. The study also found that users who adopted the hashtag #covid19, based on the official name of the virus used by the World Health Organization, were less likely to post racists hashtags. 

Capitol Hill has been watching the increase of Anti-Asian attacks closely and is taking action. In April, the Senate passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to combat the violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). The bill awaits the House of Representatives’ vote, which will most likely pass due to the Democrat majority. President Joe Biden supports the passage of the bill. 

The legislation puts accountability on and guides police departments that report hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. If passed, it would increase education awareness to combat discriminatory language. Congress recognizes that actions and words matter.

The developments that led up to the Senate passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act are part of the Emotional Intelligence process. The violence and divisive language of Asian Hate offline and online was an outcry for help, and the bill is Capitol Hill’s response. 

Congress is self-aware that discrimination does exist nationwide and is acting on it. They made a conscious decision to draft and support legislation that will have positive consequences for the victims and communities. 

Managed awareness and managed action against hateful online and offline attacks are part of the Emotional Intelligence journey, which can be taught and learned through Social Emotional Learning.  Such skills benefit individuals, workplaces, and communities with long last effects. 

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For Some Teens, It’s Been a Year of Anxiety and Trips to the E.R.

“When the pandemic first hit the Bay Area last spring, Ann thought that her son, a 17-year-old senior, was finally on track to finish high school. He had kicked a heavy marijuana habit and was studying in virtual classes while school was closed. The first wave of stay-at-home orders shut down his usual routines — sports, playing music with friends. But the stability didn’t last.”

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Keep Paying Attention to Your Kids’ Mental Health in This Pandemic

“For nearly a year, most of our children have been navigating the new, difficult normal: social isolation; deeply stressed parents; the effects of financial uncertainty; school from home — or from WiFi-equipped school buses if they don’t have internet. While Covid-19 itself has largely been sparing of children’s physical health, studies have shown it has taken a toll on their mental health, associated with an increase in suicide-related behaviors, experts say.”

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Pandemic Worsens Child Mental Health Crisis

“A bag of Doritos, that’s all Princess wanted.

Her mom calls her Princess, but her real name is Lindsey. She’s 17 and lives with her mom, Sandra, a nurse, outside of Atlanta. On May 17, 2020, a Sunday, Lindsey decided she didn’t want breakfast; she wanted Doritos. So she left home and walked to Family Dollar, taking her pants off on the way, while her mom followed on the phone with police.”

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Children of Quarantine

“Starting on April 6, a bearded and earnest neuroscientist at the University of Oregon named Philip Fisher began to send a digital questionnaire — at first weekly, and then, beginning in August, biweekly — to a representative group of a thousand American families with young children. He’s curious about how they and their kids are doing. They aren’t doing so well.”

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