I took my son, JT, on a trip to the Middle East recently. I was uneasy about this and called a friend who spent three months in Jerusalem the previous summer. “Lizzy,” I asked, “Did you feel safe while you were there? See, I’m taking my only remaining son and I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing.” She paused for a long while and then responded quietly, “Safer than Sandy Hook?” I immediately felt a weight removed from my shoulders. Right!? Is there any place safer than a first grade classroom, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, flanked by a firehouse, in a quiet little New England town? I am learning that we must continue to live our lives choosing love over fear.
We look to our President, our politicians and legislators. We demand change. Yet, can they fix it? Actually if you think about it, if they could have, wouldn’t they have already? They too have children attending schools with the same issues of bullying, drug abuse and suicide. They go to movie theaters, shopping malls, nightclubs and airports and want to do so without fear of harm. We must ask ourselves, is the violence we are experiencing a political or legislative issue? It is not. It is an issue of the heart: individuals choosing fear over love, in pain, and wanting to inflict that pain on others. How do we correct this? We must proactively address the pain and suffering of these individuals. How do we do this?
All are born without thought of harming one another, but cultivated in their lifetime into the hurting and desperate people that eventually kill others. We can strengthen them by teaching them the skills and tools they need to overcome difficulties and trauma they will face in their life. This knowledge will help cultivate them into caring, resilient and responsible citizens. This is possible, with social and emotional learning (SEL).
The Child Mind Institute reports that 49.5% of our U.S. college-bound youth will have a diagnosable mental illness by the time they are 18. The majority of this prognosis is anxiety. The average onset age for anxiety in the U.S. is 6 years old. Most of these children, around 70%, will not receive professional help. What are the long term effects of untreated anxiety? Substance abuse, mental illness, suicide, depression, violence, incarceration, etc.
This alarming situation doesn’t have to be our ‘new normal’.
There are decades of research that show SEL reduces anxiety, substance abuse, mental illness, suicide, depression, violence, incarceration, etc. At this same time, SEL increases grades, test scores, attendance and pro-social behavior.
In fact, SEL is so powerful, if it were a vaccination, we would give it to every individual. It’s not as easy as that but SEL is powerful programming that we can implement in all of our schools to proactively educate our youth and address the issues we are trying to cope with in our society.
YOU can be part of the solution.
Provide your teachers or school administrators with our website:
Introduce our f-r-e-e Choose Love Enrichment Program, a PreK though 12th Grade SEL program that teaches children 21st century life skills to cultivate a safer, more peaceful and loving world.
Thank you for choosing love.
Chief Movement Officer, Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement