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The Role of Social Emotional Learning in Overcoming Anxiety

Some who read this post know my story. Both of my kids are now fully-functioning adults, but each has had their wrestling match with anxiety and depression while they were in school. It impacted our entire family.

Bethany was a fun-loving teen whose favorite pastime was laughter and whose favorite word was “chill.” At 18, however, we saw her spiral into a different person. This typically upbeat, fun-loving girl grew more quiet and reserved. We watched her smile less. We saw more tears. (For seemingly no reason, she’d begin to cry.) She didn’t want to be left alone. We witnessed less energy and more anxiety. Soon, others began to notice and wondered if something had happened to her. We wondered the same thing. Her battle required her to develop skills, to see a counselor and even take some medication to balance the chemicals in her body, much like I have to take insulin, as a type one diabetic, to balance the chemicals in my body.

Over the last decade, I have seen a mushrooming population of students slip into this same battle. It’s a bit nerve racking.

Anxiety and depression in high school kids have been on the rise since 2012 after several years of plateau. It’s a reality that crosses over all demographics, urban, rural, and suburban; and among adolescents who are college bound and among those who are not. Teens from different ethnicities and genders are experiencing the issues associated with angst. Sometimes those issues are severe. According to one report, “among children 17 and younger, deaths from suicide jumped 84 percent in the past decade. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14 and the second leading cause of death among ages 15 to 24.” The number of high school students who report seriously thinking about suicide has increased as well. Yet, this is but one of the signals. More and more educators and parents are spotting symptoms of this battle with angst their kids are going through, including:

  • Social withdrawal from friends or family
  • Napping or sleeping far more than normal
  • Feeling overwhelmed by normal expectations
  • Neglecting to shower or take care of personal hygiene
  • Self harm, including cutting or mutilating with sharp edges

So, what can schools do to combat this on a day-to-day basis?

The Role of Social Emotional Learning in Combating Anxiety

At the end of the day, anyone struggling with anxiety or depression will benefit from what educators now describe as: Social Emotional Learning or S.E.L. This topic is taking the K-12 educational world by storm, as a growing number of administrators recognize that students may be hindered from mastering reading, writing and arithmetic without the ability to manage their emotions and relationships. Academic skills are worth little in the working world without life skills.  A person without S.E.L. skills will ultimately sabotage their careers and their relationships.

One could argue that Social Emotional Learning really is about life skills. A student may learn these skills and still wrestle with depression, but without these skills a student doesn’t have a chance to survive in the world they’ll enter after graduation. S.E.L. includes managing competencies such as:

– An accurate self-perception – Impulse control
– Recognizing their strengths – Problem solving
– Self-confidence – Analyzing situations
– Self-efficacy – Stress management
– Empathy – Self discipline
– Appreciating diversity – Self motivation
– Respect for others – Ethical responsibility
– Social engagement – Goal setting
– Communication – Relationship building

When we pause and reflect, these are the skills that enable a young adult to thrive at a job, in a friendship or in a marriage or family. They’re as important as any academic subject we expect kids to learn today—and frankly, due to the current reality we face with anxiety and depression, they may prove to be more important. In our household, both of my kids learned many of the S.E.L. competencies, via our Habitudes® images. We had incredible conversations on the topics above and even shared some learning experiences too.

If you’re considering how to build Social Emotional skills in your students, may I encourage you to take a step now? This is a crucial issue for the emerging generation.

At Growing Leaders, we’re creating a special “bundle” of our Habitudes to develop these S.E.L. skills in young people that will be ready this fall. (Habitudes are images that form leadership habits and attitudes.) It’s a way of teaching timeless principles with the power of images, conversations and experiences. This is the natural language of today’s student.

To learn more about Social Emotional Learning and the Habitudes curriculum, you can click on the link HERE.


New Habitudes Course:
Social & Emotional Learning

Our Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning curriculum uses memorable imagery, real-life stories and practical experiences to teach timeless skills in a way that is relevant to students today. Students are constantly using images to communicate via emojis, Instagram, and Snapchat. Why not utilize their favorite language to bridge the gap between learning and real-life application?

Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning helps middle and high school students: 

  • Develop habits of self-discipline and initiative
  • Implement time management skills to do what really counts
  • Plan for personal growth outside the classroom
  • Identify their unique strengths and passions for a healthy self-image
  • And many more social and emotional skills

Click on the link below today to learn more about Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning!

Request More Information

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The Role of Social Emotional Learning in Overcoming Anxiety