social and emotional challenges

Expert Chat With Dr. Jerome Schultz: Social and Emotional Challenges Children Are Facing

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Navigating the new normal is hard, especially for those with learning and thinking differences.

By Understood

Navigating the new normal is hard—especially for those with learning and thinking differences.

In this month’s expert chat, we talk with Dr. Jerome Schultz and discover how families can address the social and emotional challenges that children are facing today.

Social and emotional challenges

Transcript provided by YouTube:

00:02

– Today, we’re going to talk about a topic

00:04

that is so important right now,

00:06

how families and educators can work together

00:10

to address the social and emotional challenges

00:14

kids are facing and dealing with.

00:19

I’m here with neuro-psychologist Jerome Schultz,

00:23

who’s going to be answering questions

00:26

about the stresses that kids are facing.

00:29

Hi Jerry, thanks for joining us today.

00:31

– Hi Gail, great to be here as usual.

00:34

– I’m going to jump right into one of the questions.

00:36

Can you explain a little bit about the stresses

00:40

that kids are facing right now,

00:42

specifically kids who learn and think differently?

00:45

– Right, it’s really an important question.

00:47

There’s so much variation in the way kids are responding.

00:50

We have to first acknowledge

00:52

that some kids are not impervious distress

00:55

but handle it better than others, just like adults.

00:57

Live school or in-person school,

00:59

or whether they’re in virtual school,

01:01

whether their families are comfortable,

01:04

whether their families are low stress families

01:08

whether or not they’re having to deal with technology,

01:11

whether or not they’re having to deal

01:12

with environmental issues that are affecting kids.

01:15

There are just so many factors that affect

01:17

how kids are dealing with the added layers of stress

01:20

that are upon all of us right now.

01:23

If kids are at home learning virtually

01:25

or through a Hybrid model,

01:26

one of the things they may worry about

01:28

is going public in front of other people on a screen;

01:32

worrying about whether or not that material

01:34

is being recorded, whether or not other people will see it.

01:37

Frankly, there’s no place to hide

01:39

when you’re in front of a camera, unless you leave the room.

01:42

So we may see some resistance from kids

01:44

who are being asked to sit in front of a camera

01:47

and really be public with their,

01:49

strengthened with their flaws.

01:51

That’s really where the problem comes in.

01:53

If they’re in in-person school,

01:55

sitting next to other kids,

01:57

especially now in the beginning of the year,

01:59

they may be adjusting to the fact that

02:01

there are different kids in their classrooms.

02:05

the physical arrangement is different

02:07

than it has been in the past,

02:09

the rules and regulations

02:11

that apply to kids in live school today,

02:13

are adding to the burden of kids

02:16

especially those who have organizational challenges

02:20

It’s just more to think about.

02:22

– Jerry, what are some of the signs

02:24

that kids are struggling emotionally?

02:27

What should teachers and families be on the lookout for?

02:32

– Well, a lot of kids don’t say what’s on their minds.

02:35

So one of the things that I always say first

02:39

don’t wait for your kid to tell you something

02:41

because that may be the last

02:42

kind of information they send you.

02:44

But do look for changes in behavior.

02:46

If a child has been calm and relaxed,

02:49

if that’s his or her basic behavior,

02:52

when a child starts to look nervous, to do nervous things,

02:56

to bite nails or to fidget more,

02:59

or to get embarrassed more easily

03:01

or even to start eye blinking a lot, picking at his skin.

03:05

Those are kinds of things

03:06

that are some of the behavioral characteristics

03:11

Avoidance is another one too.

03:13

Kids who might have in the past approached

03:15

the task even with some reticence,

03:17

may now be running away from it.

03:18

It may be time for school live or virtual,

03:21

and they’re running off

03:22

trying to escape the inevitable stress

03:25

that comes from having to learn;

03:28

especially for kids with learning challenges.

03:30

So the behaviors that you want to look for

03:32

are atypical behaviors for that child and atypical behaviors

03:36

for other kids in the environment, in the classroom.

03:38

If a child is exhibiting behaviors that are different

03:41

from most other kids in that age group,

03:43

maybe that’s a time to raise the flag of concern.

03:47

It’s also difficult too in school.

03:49

Because especially if the child has a new teacher

03:51

at the beginning of the year,

03:53

that teacher doesn’t know that child’s baseline behavior.

03:58

who are going through sort of bigger life changes

04:02

because of what’s going on?

04:04

Or who are even affected by what they hear

04:07

about COVID illness, death, if they’ve experienced it

04:12

and even social unrest and other things going on

04:16

in the news, how might kids who learn

04:19

and think differently, express that kind of grief,

04:23

emotional difficulty overloads?

04:27

– Right, well, the reality and the thing

04:29

that makes it very difficult

04:31

is that they may not be able to express it.

04:33

And again what you need to look for,

04:35

are the behaviors that kids exhibit.

04:39

Kids are experiencing a lot of factors,

04:42

as you pointed out that might increase their stress,

04:45

but a lot depends on how protected they are

04:48

from the onslaught of information,

04:52

that continues to bombard them.

04:54

Like it bombards us adults,

04:57

and how well they’re shielded from that.

04:59

If they’re hooked into technology

05:00

and they’re getting messages on their cell phone

05:03

or their computers about the news in the world,

05:07

that means the message keeps coming.

05:10

It’s like someone who continues to punch you in the face

05:13

and you’re trying to escape from them.

05:16

So one of the things that parents and teachers

05:19

have an opportunity, and I think an obligation to do,

05:22

is keep kids as shielded as they can,

05:25

or from some of this continuous bad news.

05:29

Or at least build in some kind of filters

05:31

so that you limit kids exposure to it.

05:34

The definition of bad stress is the kind of stress

05:39

that one has when you feel like you have no control

05:44

And when that happens, behaviors start to change.

05:47

Kids get resistant, kids get sometimes oppositional.

05:51

They say no more often, they hunker down, they resist;

05:56

and adult’s attempts to get them to do some tasks

06:01

whether it’s a task at home or in school.

06:03

So mental health problems should be regarded

06:07

as more serious when they result in a change in behavior

06:13

that makes the child less productive, less engaged,

06:20

The parents and teachers have to work together

06:21

to judge whether or not the emotional stresses

06:24

are at the level of severity,

06:26

where they merit some kind of intervention.

06:29

– Where can families find help?

06:32

And what if financial issues are an issue

06:36

in terms of trying to get outside help for your child?

06:40

– The good news is that when kids return to school,

06:42

whether it’s live school or a virtual school,

06:45

they not only return to their teachers

06:48

to the services of the mental health specialists

06:52

People like social workers, or guidance counselors,

06:56

or adjustment counselors; who are trained and experienced

06:59

and hopefully available to work with kids

07:02

with mild to moderate emotional stressors.

07:07

when the outside environment is causing so much stress.

07:11

– For kids who struggle socially,

07:13

what are some of the extra challenges they face this year?

07:17

– Well, one of them is that they have been out of practice.

07:20

So many kids have been so isolated for so long.

07:23

They may forget what appropriate social behaviors are.

07:28

Some kids have had the luxury of being at home

07:30

and away from other kids.

07:31

Because that means they don’t have the demands

07:33

to respond to an ever changing environment

07:36

like the one you find in the classroom.

07:37

So they may be pretty relaxed about this.

07:40

They come back to an environment

07:41

where they have to interact with kids more,

07:43

those kids with social challenges

07:45

are getting bombarded with lots and lots of demands

07:50

about being able to react and respond in appropriate ways.

07:57

There’s a lot of personal decoding that’s going on.

08:00

If you’re working alone in front of a camera with a teacher

08:03

or working at home with your parent,

08:04

you don’t have to adjust your response style so much.

08:08

But if you’re working in a class where it’s,

08:10

there are 14 squares on the screen,

08:13

or 14 kids six feet away from you;

08:15

and you’re having to deal with stimulator,

08:18

coming in from other people that you have to react to,

08:20

or in the case of a child who’s distractible,

08:24

a teacher could say to a child in a live school situation

08:28

to put on a headset, to listen to something.

08:30

Just to, again let that child go into a kind of an island

08:37

that doesn’t require interaction with other kids for awhile

08:40

until they get used to the environment.

08:42

– For kids who are struggling emotionally

08:47

but don’t really open up about their feelings,

08:51

how can families and educators sort of get kids

08:55

to talk about their feelings and emotions?

08:59

– It’s a good question.

09:00

And I think it is important for people

09:03

to talk about their feelings and emotions.

09:06

I met a teacher not too long ago,

09:07

who said she used the techniques

09:09

which I think is very helpful.

09:11

When kids came in the room, she had a jar inside the door,

09:15

and she had yellow slips of paper and blue slips of paper.

09:19

And she said to the kids,

09:24

that you’re bringing into this classroom

09:26

and you’re not sure how to talk about them

09:28

or how to express them, we can be helpful.

09:30

But put your worries on a piece of paper,

09:34

The yellow worries means,

09:35

you’ve got the worry but you’re able to deal with it,

09:38

and leaving it at the jar,

09:39

means maybe you leave it at the doorstep.

09:41

If I see a blue slip in there with your name on it,

09:44

that means you’ve got a problem that’s getting in your way.

09:47

That’s keeping you up at night,

09:48

that’s making it hard for you to wake up in the morning,

09:51

and that’s making it hard for you to be in school.

09:53

If I see a blue slip in there,

09:55

I’m going to find a time during the day when we can talk.

09:59

If it’s a big, big problem, and it can’t wait for later,

10:02

fill out the slip, come up to my desk or find me

10:06

That means teacher, I’m in deep trouble,

10:09

I need help right now with this.”

10:11

And you have varying degrees of kids

10:13

who can respond to those kinds of systems.

10:15

But to give kids an opportunity to talk about things

10:18

doesn’t mean that they will.

10:19

So you have to be creative about giving kids a chance.

10:22

You could have kids draw pictures.

10:24

Kids, before we start our English lesson today,

10:26

I just want you to make a sketch of something

10:29

that happened yesterday that made you happy.

10:31

Or something that happened yesterday,

10:33

or that you heard on the news that made you upset.

10:35

Let’s get that out, let’s get that down.

10:38

And you can do this in the privacy of your own desk.

10:40

And we won’t share these with anybody,

10:42

but I would like to look at them

10:43

because I want to know what’s going on.

10:45

Not only in your head in terms of learning,

10:47

but I want to know what’s going on in your emotional center.

10:51

So we have to be sensitive to that.

10:54

– How can families and teachers work together

10:58

to address social and emotional challenges this year?

11:03

– Well, I think it’s important for both,

11:05

for teachers to understand what’s going on at home,

11:07

especially in light of the crises

11:09

that are going on around us.

11:11

Conversely, it’s important for parents

11:13

to understand how the child is performing

11:17

So communication between teacher and parent

11:20

is more important than it’s been;

11:22

I think than it’s ever been.

11:24

And whether that’s by email or phone call or by notes,

11:28

back and forth, whatever it takes;

11:31

because sometimes kids hold it together

11:33

during the school day and then fall apart at home.

11:36

Or sometimes the opposite happens.

11:38

Kids walk into school, if they’re going back to live school

11:42

and they’re filled with anxieties and worries.

11:44

So communication between the home and the school

11:48

Remember that anxiety and stress are fueled by uncertainty.

11:54

And the more we’re not in control of things,

11:57

the more likely it is that we’re going to be anxious.

11:59

When we’re dealing with kids with learning challenges,

12:02

they may not be in command of the curriculum

12:08

So we have to make sure that they have the opportunity

12:11

to get engaged in tasks in which they feel comfortable,

12:16

competent and in control.

12:18

And that may mean not making the work easier,

12:21

but backing up to a place where a child had success,

12:25

and could feel that feeling of success.

12:27

Because stress has a hard time living where success reigns.

12:31

– Jerry, thank you so much for being with us today,

12:35

and for answering these super important questions.

12:38

– Gail, I’m always glad to talk to you

12:41

and have a chance to talk to the Understood audience

12:43

about things that I’m passionate about,

12:47

And it’s my hope that parents and kids and teachers

12:50

have a safe and successful return to school,

12:53

and a normal life if we can get it back

12:56

in whatever way that happens.

13:01

And thanks to everyone for watching.

13:03

We’d love to hear from you.

13:07

how you’re handling social-emotional challenges

13:12

For more expert information and advice,

13:15

follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our YouTube channel.

social and emotional challenges

This post was previously published on YouTube.


Photo credit: Screenshot from video

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