We already know that children’s mental health is important for many reasons. We know that personality development is based on genetics AND a child’s surrounding environment. One of the examples I’ve used in my education is Elon Musk, and how his personality makes sense based on where and how he grew up. (If you would like to check out what I had to say about Elon Musk and his personality development, you check it out here.) We also know that what happens during childhood can critically play out later in life.
If you’ve seen my previous blogs about integrating CBT into the classrooms, then you also understand the benefits that can come from utilizing emotional intelligence activities in the classroom. Emotional regulation plays a healthy part in growing up, maturing, and learning how to control our reactions in appropriate moments. Some children don’t receive adequate emotional care at home, and some parents are emotionally unavailable. Some parents aren’t even sure how to regulate their own emotions, and now their children suffer the brunt end of the stick because now these children suffer from intrusive thoughts, emotional outbursts, and tense social interactions.
A study from 2016 to 2019 confirmed that emotional regulation and inhibitory control (what controls emotional regulation) are established before children enter Pre-K or Pre-School. This fact supports the importance of proper mental health in children.
Two concepts influence emotional development: family practices and socioeconomic challenges. As I mentioned before, some children come to school from a home life that doesn’t acknowledge mental health or healthy mental practices. Additionally, those families might have distorted ways of communicating, the parents might be arguing/fighting frequently, there might be different hierarchal needs of their family, or the child might be disciplined for having emotion (as some families might look at emotions as a weakness, which we should know by now is a toxic trait). Being affected by poverty is another example of what can negatively influence emotional development. When we think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we know that if a child’s (or anyone for that matter) needs are not met, then they (as an individual) will not be able to reach self-actualization and development their own methodological thinking patterns.
Some children are negatively affected developmentally. Since children spend quite some time in the classroom, it is an opportunity to provide the necessary emotional support for those children. Classrooms are social contexts that allow for interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions and reactions. This supports better learning opportunities! Just remember what Albert Bandura mentioned about social cognitive learning theory: children learn from what they see and experience. Teachers are also secondary attachment figures! Children become used to their teachers almost as their second guardians because that’s the adult they likely spend most of their time with. Children often may feel safe enough to express their emotions with teachers due to this trusted bond. Lastly, inhibitory control is what is the underlying support to emotional regulation; in order to have adequate emotional regulation, inhibitory control must be established, but this usually happens before children even enter school – so ultimately, it relies on the parents.
The silver lining here is that by the time children enter school, they may have emotional issues. However, since they are children (and children are capable of learning and retaining knowledge), they can be influenced by proper emotional development activities in the classroom and with their teacher.
Check out the article that inspired this blog:
Alamos, P., Williford, A. P., Downer, J. T., & Turnbull, K. L. P. (2022). How does inhibitory control predict emotion regulation in preschool? The role of individual children’s interactions with teachers and peers. Developmental Psychology, 58(11), 2049-2063. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0001415