November 2022 Issue
By Jodie Randisi, Life Coach for Kids
Human beings are social creatures,
which is why screens are not enough to meet our social needs.
All it took was a prolonged pandemic for our kids to replace interpersonal
social skills with social media and screen skills.
If you’ve noticed a decline in the younger generation’s appetite
to socialize in person, you’re not alone.
On the outside, kids are clowning around on Snapchat or TikTok, laughing at memes, and entertaining friends with filters and altered photos. In reality, and in too many cases, their mental health has taken a dive while they were trying to cope with being put on hold. They’re worried about how they’ll catch up. According to research, 82 percent of Generation Z members believe they’ve been traumatized. While it sounds extreme, many of them feel postponed, pushed aside, or penalized. Analysis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that 37 percent of high school students said they were experiencing poor mental health due to anxiety. That’s one in every three students.
Today’s students present a host of challenges for those who parent, mentor and lead them. This age group will have experienced apartness from peers in a way that will set them apart from other age groups. Author Leah Farish puts it this way: “This connected generation disconnected, at least regarding in-person interactions. And this may play a role in the story they tell themselves. In fact, it could be a legitimate excuse for them falling behind socially and emotionally.”
Kids need at least one adult in their life who can intentionally provide emotional and social guidance. The good news is the adult doesn’t have to be a parent. It can be a teacher, coach, neighbor, mentor, grandparent, or an older sibling. Caring adults steer kids toward healthy friendships, making sure they have enough social awareness to make good decisions.
Between the ages of 10 and 15, an adolescent’s developing brain is more sensitive to social acceptance and rejections than any other age. Now that the world has reopened, students have multiple opportunities to ditch their screens and develop creative, critical thinking, and collaborative skills live—in person.
Cultivating social and emotional skills in kids has become more important as we emerge from the pandemic. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social-emotional learning (SEL) is “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible and caring decisions.”
Being able to recognize voice intonations, body language and verbal and nonverbal cues is a skill that can be learned. Fortunately (and ironically), there’s an app for that. Wisdom: The World of Emotions (iOS, Android, Desktop) features a catalog of activities for kids ages 4 to 8 that focuses on these skills. The app is designed to help kids hone their observation and communication skills with real-life examples.
For those seeking to help teens overcome their anxieties and concerns about fitting in, here is one powerful suggestion that will help build a foundation for a robust and nourishing relationship.
Model and practice intentional listening.
Listening skills are essential for social awareness. Here’s why: People, especially kids, start to heal the moment they feel heard. Children are most like us in their feelings and least like us in their thoughts, which is why adults should strive to identify a child’s emotion as soon as possible. The goal is to get them to share what they were thinking when they got emotional.
Besides recognizing social cues and identifying emotions in others, here are some other assets that boost social awareness: empathy, compassion, gratitude and relationship skills. Developing social and emotional skills won’t be linear. Children will face challenges along the way. Being mindful of feelings and perspectives will take practice. However, with practice also comes the ability to build strong relationships and make responsible decisions.
Each generation rediscovers for themselves the magic of the world, but also the tragic nature of the world. How the younger generation chooses to engage in the world has a lot to do with the grownups around them. Therefore, I want to shout out to all adults— be the grownup who not only encourages, engages and emboldens our youth, but also cherishes them along the way no matter what.
Jodie Randisi has spent her career observing what it takes to connect with, motivate and inspire human behavior. As a life coach, she designs structures and strategies that maximize student engagement, while employing solution-focused exercises and activities for social and emotional learning.