written by Tracy Nemecek, LMHC
Stop the stigma. Oprah Winfrey, Prince William, Prince Harry, Lady Gaga, Michael Phelps, and Jewel are some of the well-known individuals using their platforms to normalize the humanness of emotional struggles and promote strong mental health by encouraging people to seek and receive psychological support when they need it. Imagine if we existed in a culture where there was no stigma to be stopped because emotional health was viewed and valued in the same way that physical health is. Most individuals feel no shame in admitting that they have a fever or take a weekly yoga class for relaxation, yet the same cannot be said for admitting to having anxiety symptoms or attending regular therapy appointments.
One of the ways the stigma can be stopped is to change the messages that children are receiving about understanding and managing emotions. Students learn age-appropriate skills in math and literacy as they move through school. These subjects are explicitly taught because we do not assume that children are inherently able to solve an equation or write a thesis statement. But regardless of the path a child takes into adulthood, s/he will need skills such as controlling impulses, showing empathy, and working on a team, and these are often not explicitly taught and it is instead left up to chance as to whether or not an individual will learn them. Recent research from the World Economic Forum indicates that employers are looking for employees who can coordinate with others, negotiate, and demonstrate emotional intelligence. In their Future of Jobs Report, specific technical skills did not even make the top ten in a list of workplace success skills. If we can make the commitment to overtly teaching children to recognize and manage their emotions, successfully navigate communication and conflict with others, and apply problem-solving and decision-making models to the choices they face, we can help to make social-emotional literacy as much a part of their everyday experience as mathematical computation and reading comprehension. These skills cannot be seen as separate from or less than academic skills. Emotions and their management can be given equal representation in the education of the whole child. This can assist in eliminating the stigma of emotional struggle and equip individuals with skills they will need and utilize across their life stages and relationships.
Let’s stop the stigma and raise the next generation to not only view emotional challenges as normal and human but also be equipped to recognize and respond to them when they occur.
Interested in a social-emotional literacy class for your child? Consider “Stories to Grow On”, offered by QL Therapy counselor Tracy Nemecek on August 12-16 at Writers and Books. Students will use children’s literature to explore the appreciation of individual uniqueness, and understand and cope with emotions such as fear, anger and worry. Creative projects will round out the class and provide students with an emotional management toolkit to take and use at home.