With the election a little more than two weeks away, one of our presidential candidates has released her initial plans to help stop bullying across the United States. We are glad that our leaders at the highest level are thinking about the problem of bullying and how to solve it. At the same time, we know that it’s on each of us, not just our leaders, to tackle this problem in our own communities.
Preventing Bullying in our Schools and Communities through Social and Emotional Learning
Our organization tries to prevent bullying by starting as early as possible. Our Healthy Families America program uses a social and emotional learning lens to teach both children and their parents about five competencies that can help prevent bullying in the future. They are:
- Self-awareness: The ability to recognize your own emotions and thoughts and how they influence your behavior.
- Self-management: The ability to regulate or control your thoughts and emotions, even in difficult situations.
- Social awareness: The ability to understand and empathize with others.
- Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain positive and healthy relationships with different people.
- Responsible decision making: Knowing to make constructive and respectful choices based on knowing appropriate behavior.
By knowing and mastering these competencies from a young age, children are more likely to celebrate differences than to bully others for them. When programs like Healthy Families America help teach children and parents these skills at an early age, good things happen. Thanks to social and emotional learning curricula, instead of learning to exclude, children build benches to help shy or quiet children find new friends. Teenagers learn to use new skills and knowledge to be more inclusive and kind to their peers. Parents versed in social and emotional learning know better how to teach their children to be kind and recognize potential warning signs of bullying behavior.
While programs that teach social and emotional learning are important, each of us individually plays a critical role in bullying prevention. Community members can advocate with their school administrators to create social and emotional learning curriculum. Parents and caregivers can make an extra effort to include lessons about empathy and inclusion among their bed time stories. Coaches and other mentors can lead by example, demonstrating positive and encouraging behavior in times of stress, helping kids learn that it’s possible to keep tough emotions in check.
We are grateful that putting an end to bullying has become a national topic. The fact that our presidential candidates are talking about a plan for the future is a huge step forward. But we can’t rely on our future president or more funding to solve this problem alone. Our biggest impact can only be felt by working together, supporting programs like HFA, and teaching children about kindness and inclusion the same way we teach them about math and science.