Teaching What Matters Most
Why Emotional Resilience Education and Training Should Be Core Curriculum
In light of the latest school shooting, we are once again reminded of how ill equipped our children are to deal with stress. Anonymous commentators spout off in news articles about everything from gun laws to bad parenting to mental illness and bullying. But if you stop and really listen to what our kids are saying, you'd know that arguing about the above topics is not part of the solution.
Instead, look at teen social media accounts. You will hear the voices of children who are confused, overwhelmed, and often in despair. Their ability to cope with the normal downturns that life presents is obviously compromised. Their school environments are toxic with competition, boredom, and dis-empowerment. They post 12 selfies a day and rate their own self-worth based on the number of "likes" their precocious pose lands them. They rate each other with a sense of arrogance and shallowness that dismisses and invalidates virtues such as kindness, compassion, and acceptance.
A recent article in The Atlantic about sexting tells the story of a county in Virginia that was shocked after an investigation revealed that it is the norm for our teens to send nude or inappropriate photos to their boyfriends/girlfriends. Authorities had to come to terms with the fact that if they enforced the law, hundreds of teens would have been facing felony charges of child pornography.
The digital age has desensitized our children. Exposure to sex and violence through media and video games has made fantasy and reality difficult for the developing teen brain to differentiate. The convenience of instant communication behind the veil of a screen allows them to verbally accost each other with no inhibition. Monitoring their digital interactions can be a full time job for any parent, already pushed to the edge by their own stress. We are drowning.
Our educational system uses catch phrases like, "No child left behind," and focuses on Common Core Standards to grasp onto any last hopes that America remain a superpower and produce educated go-getters and tomorrow’s leaders. Meanwhile, Suzie is posting her selfie sporting a sassy pose waiting for Tommy to give her the thumbs up so she can feel a modicum of self-worth for the next 5 minutes, but Tommy is too busy playing a game of Halo to notice.
We cannot go back. We have entered the digital age. The media and video game developers are not going to develop a conscience overnight. Parents are not going to always be able to be at home engaging kids in other activities.
Our children spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week in school. It is time to use a few of those hours to teach our children how to both engage safely and respectfully with each other and to cope with the society we have created for them. It is time to give them the tools they need to navigate the landscape of the digital age without losing connection to their innate humanity and greater communities. It is time to make social-emotional learning and mental-emotional health the main topics when deciding how we will teach, support, guide, and resource our children for the future.
They need and deserve mind-body tools, practice, and coaching in how to self-regulate, be mindful, process emotions, and develop emotional resilience and a grounded sense of self.
Leah Kalish, MA, is a speaker, writer, family constellation facilitator and recognized expert in movement, yoga and social-emotional education committed to nurturing optimal whole child development. Visit www.move-with-me.com. PreK-G2 training offered on May 14-15, 2016 in Westboro, MA.