“We have to start with the children!” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Today’s children and teens experience heretofore unknown levels of stress (resulting in anxiety, including competition and test anxiety, anger, behavioral problems, aggression and violence. The research also shows that stress and anxiety can disrupt thinking, interfere with learning and impact performance. Increasing demands are exposing youth to mental health problems at an earlier age.
Emotional skills are fundamental in a young person’s sense of well-being and academic achievement. A child’s ability to acknowledge and manage his or her emotions — without avoiding them, repressing them, or being overwhelmed – is vital in learning how to replace impulsive reactions with more appropriate thoughtful responses.
Learning to self-regulate emotions begins in infancy and continues into adolescence. This ability is critical to good mental health, social relationships and, ultimately, academic achievement. Navigating through difficult emotions is challenging for every child, and most especially for children born into complicated, troubled, or abusive situations. Lack of appropriate regulation often leads to emotional problems and maladjustment in children and teens. It can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, aggressive or self-destructive behaviors, and poor performance in school.
Highly stressed youth often try to avoid or suppress such difficult emotions as fear, anger or sadness. Some turn to substance abuse as they try to reduce the intensity of painful feelings. Others obsessively worry, leading to increased anxiety and depression. Both reactions interfere with developing healthy emotional coping strategies.