A very dear friend of mine told me about the Jesse Lewis Choose Love organization a few years ago. I did not know what it was, but I thought, “Why wouldn’t I choose love?” Seems so obvious, right? Unfortunately, many people don’t know what it means to choose love or what character social emotional development (CSED) means.
There are so many reasons why people choose hatred or neglect. I don’t believe people are inherently bad, I believe bad behavior is learned. This becomes generational. Children that grow up in homes where there is abuse, neglect, violence or witness to drugs and alcohol abuse are unable to form healthy attachments. Children cannot express how they feel so act out. They are considered “the bad kid” in school. They are emotionally dysregulated or retreat into avoidance. Without healthy attachments to a parent or caregiver they are unable to build positive and healthy coping skills.
After meeting Scarlett Lewis and learning more about the Jesse Lewis Choose Love program, I knew this was something I wanted to become a part of. Being an advisor allows me to talk about social emotional needs and how it pertains to children and adolescents’ mental health.
There is no doubt Covid exasperated the mental health crisis.
- During the first seven months of lockdown there was a 24% increase in mental-health related ER visits in children ages 12-17.
- In 2020 the CDC reported greater than 500 children between ages 10-14 died by suicide and 6,000 between 15-24 years of age.
- In one study 69 percent of parents said the pandemic was the worst thing that happened to their child and 67 percent report they wished they’d been more vigilant about their child’s mental health from the beginning.
Social isolation was reported to be the unhealthiest aspect of the pandemic followed by remote learning and too much screen time. Sixty eight percent of parents report they wished they had let their children socialize more because protecting them from the virus caused more stress and mental health consequences.
But something good did result from the pandemic. Parents are more aware of their child’s social and emotional needs. When I first meet with a patient, I get a detailed history from the parents about the development of their child both academically and socially. I then meet with the child to explore how they felt growing up. Do they have friends? Is anyone bullying them at school or over the internet, if they have ever been physically or emotionally abused or witnessed abuse or a traumatic event.
After gathering this information, I can start identifying why the child is behaving the way they are. Children either internalize their symptoms (withdraw, socially isolate) or externalize them by becoming aggressive and disruptive. This is because children do not have the language skills to articulate their feelings. Assessing the social and emotional needs of the family is one of the most important parts of the evaluation.
Educating parents about the importance of meeting their child’s social and emotional needs is key to helping them heal. If the child’s needs are not being met at home there is a higher chance they will not succeed in school, in forming healthy relationships or develop a positive self-esteem.
Treating children as if they exist in a vacuum is no longer tenable. The best way to help a child or adolescent achieve wellness is to help their family become well. This starts with teaching families that CSED allows children and adults to understand their own emotions and the emotions of others, and to use this understanding in their choices and relationships. CSED represents a set of skills our children need to thrive and adapt to life’s challenges.
Jacqueline Simpson- Dunne is a Board Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Through her education, experience and empathic nature, Jackie is uniquely suited to treat children and adolescents with behavioral health conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, post- traumatic stress disorder and mood disorders. Jackie has also worked extensively with children and adolescents with comorbid conditions
Statements of this blog reflect the author’s personal opinions and do not represent the views or policies of the Choose Love Movement. They are not viewed as personal medical care, but for the purpose of general knowledge. The reader is strongly encouraged to to speak to his/her own physician or therapist for medical advise.