Explaining the benefits of social-emotional learning programs in school
An academic education is essential to any child’s future. We also can’t forget the importance of emotional health in a child’s development. The rates of anxiety and depression among children and adolescents have been on the rise for the last decade. The uncertainty and disruption of normal life due to COVID-19 have added to the stress on their mental well-being.
Lamad Academy understands that a well-rounded education should involve the whole child and includes Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). We talk about what this kind of education means and how it can help children develop into competent, successful adults.
Children and mental health disorders
You may be aware that incidents of mental disorders among children and adolescents were on the rise even before the pandemic. The rates of conditions like anxiety and depression showed a sharp increase in the last couple of decades.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). cites the “2016 National Survey of Children’s Health” data published online in JAMA Pediatrics which indicates that as many as one in six U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 17 has a treatable mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety problems, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
The study looked at 50,000 children ages 0-17 and based its research on parental responses to a series of questions about their child’s mental health. After careful analysis, the researchers found that the children had “at least one treatable mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety problems, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder ADHD.”
The reasons for the rise in mental health issues vary. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can have many different causes, from pressure to do well in school to issues at home. There may also be a genetic component.
The impact of COVID-19 on children’s mental health
Much of the focus during the pandemic concentrated on the physical health aspects of the coronavirus. We know that older adults and those with certain underlying conditions are at higher risk of serious effects. It’s only recently that people began to look at the emotional and mental health impact of COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has brought about a complex array of factors (uncertainty, social isolation, and parental angst) that have an impact on the mental health of children and adolescents,” according to Psychiatric Times.
The disruption of normal routines, school closures, social distancing restrictions, and cancelation of milestone events like birthday parties, proms, and graduations have certainly taken a toll on children. Anxiety has also been driven by a loss of security after a parent lost a job or experienced reduced income.
An online questionnaire looked at 359 children and 3,254 adolescents ages 7-18 in China. The questions focused on depression, anxiety, and coping. The results of the study were startling.
Scores of 22.28% of youth indicated depressive symptoms, up from an estimated 13.2% estimated prevalence
Anxiety symptoms were also higher than before COVID-19
Youth who had a family member/friend with COVID-10 had higher levels of anxiety
An emotion-focused coping style was associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms vs. a problem-focused coping style
Other researchers looked at the impact of social isolation and loneliness on mental health. Researchers looked at 63 studies and determined that quarantine and social isolation “increased the risk of depression up to 9 years later”.
Understanding social-emotional learning
SEL is a way of teaching children to understand and manage their own emotions. This can help them develop a healthy attitude and relationships and learn how to make positive decisions. Social-emotional learning is centered on five core competencies developed by the leading research organization, CASEL (Collaboration for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning).
The 5 CASEL competencies are:
Self-awareness – The ability to recognize your emotions, see yourself from another person’s point of view, and discover your strengths and weaknesses.
Relationship skills – The ability to create and maintain healthy relationships.
Responsible decision-making – The ability to make good behavior choices based on ethics, safety, and social norms.
Self-management – The ability to regulate feelings and manage stress, develop goal-setting strategies, and control impulses.
Social awareness - The ability to consider other people’s POV, develop empathy, and appreciate diversity
Multiple studies have shown that SEL can benefit academic performance and improve behavior and overall emotional health. Students who received SEL training were more likely to:
Achieve higher grades and test scores
Develop higher self-esteem
Develop resilience and positive coping skills
Graduate from high school
They were also less likely to:
Experience high levels of stress
Get in trouble in class
Develop depression or anxiety
Be chronically absent
Require discipline in class
The Lamad Academy difference
Lamad Academy is invested in raising scholars who love to learn and strive for more. Out STEM-focused curriculum integrates science, technology, engineering, and math into every facet of our education.
We also want to ensure our students develop emotionally and socially so they can learn to make healthy decisions and develop positive relationships. Our vision is to build a school culture that drives success. We foster a positive learning environment that encourages inquiry and thought along with a climate of passion and excitement among students and teachers. SEL is one way we can improve the attitude about education and sustain the mental health of our students. Ultimately, this can help improve academic performance and create a better school culture.