[Ed. – Having to work hard, at and for things, was a marvelous antidote to that problem for us old-timers. So was having to show discipline and trustworthiness, because independence was prized, and we were being groomed for it. And yes, kids, the difference between us old farts and you is that we’ve live longer and seen both sides.]
A growing body of research highlights the importance of how kids feel and how they manage those feelings, or not. Emotions drive attention, learning, memory, and decision-making. They affect relationships and psychological well-being. Learning to handle emotions well is especially important in adolescence, a time when neural networks are being sculpted that will influence behavior patterns for life.
But American youth, especially teens, are not in good emotional shape. They feel mostly “bored and checked out” at school, according to adolescence scholar Larry Steinberg. Academically, they areunderachieving when compared to youth in other developed nations. And their mental health is declining. During the school year, their stress has edged beyond that of adults, according to a survey of the American Psychological Association last year. They rank in the bottom quarter among other developed nations on measures of well-being, life-satisfaction, and relationship quality, according to a recent UNICEF study.
Emotional skills can be taught, and some schools have adopted programs to do just that. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, the nation’s leading organization advancing this cause, says that children should have five core emotion competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.