Why Social Emotional Learning is important for kids. Being from a Pakistani American background where being a doctor or being an Engineer is typically the only perceived road to success, I still remember the day my mom was so distraught over my decision to forgo a guaranteed admission to medical school that she cried. This is just a small example of how our culture teaches us to be over achievers and to put out the best effort at all costs. And all this does not come without an immense emotional toll which unfortunately due to another cultural norm of not showing any weakness, exacerbates the emotional wellness issues among our youth.
All of these pressures in our culture allows for little breathing room for things such as mental wellness which automatically deems you as a weaker being. The stigma behind mental wellness was something I never understood myself or gave a second thought to as it was never a topic of discussion growing up. The reasoning for why we didn’t have any cases of mental illness has always been attributed to strong family dynamics and support structures. It was not till very late in life, in fact just one and a half years ago, that I realized that it was not so.
Mental illness has been lurking all around us but has purposely been kept hidden as a taboo subject. It was our fear of appearing weak and the fear of not being able to be in control that has over generations made it a taboo subject. I did not even open up my mind to the possibility of something like this being around us. This is indicative of the stigma minority communities in general, not just the Pakistani Americans, typically associate with mental illness according to research published by The Commonwealth Fund.
When it came to my own kids, I too was oblivious to the effects of mental health that the pressures of society, the effort to be the best of the best whether it was in academics or sports had on my own kids. We consistently applied the pressure and expected the best of them in school as well as their other non-academic pursuits.
It was not until a year and half ago that we went through our own revelation as my college-aged daughter, along with thousands of other US students was sent back from a study abroad program in Europe during the height of Covid. My daughter was isolated in her bedroom for 14 days. She stayed in her bed buried in her own thoughts and that’s when the ugly head of bipolar disorder emerged in full force. As parents we were ill equipped to understand what was happening and mental illness never crossed our mind. It was our daughter that begged and pleaded to get help which eventually made us take notice. It seemed she had been suffering in silence for many years, however the upheaval due to Covid and the added stress of isolation burst open her silent struggle. In the past, she had been scared to ask for help knowing what our culture demands and had been doing her best to handle the situation on her own. Being home for Covid allowed her to open up and ask for help and finally my daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
For us as parents, it has been a hard and exhausting journey riddled with every emotion conceivable. The denial, the understanding, the acceptance, the grief, especially the guilt and then the road to recovery are all phases that have not been standalone, they all jumble and mix at every step of the way as my husband and I have finally opened up our eyes and realized the reality that mental illness is a disease and just like any other disease, it requires intervention, support and medical help.
In our traditional Pakistani American family, as in other minority communities, families are known for putting on the best foot forward and a positive spin on everything. Something perceived as shameful as mental illness is never talked about openly.
With the rise of remote learning and the upheaval in the normal lives of kids for the past 2 years, cases of mental illness and emotional stress are on the rise. Psychiatrists across the country are reporting an increase in suicide in children as young as 6 years old. As parents, our job is to look out for any opportunity to support our kids and provide them with positive outlets to understand their emotions and apply techniques to ease stress. Mental health is often referred to as the second pandemic and is something we need to address now. Over this past year and a half, my team and I have made it my mission to raise awareness and provide support for kids and for them to have access to quality Social Emotional Learning.
For this reason, our team has put together Free K12 Mental Wellness programs on our digital platform which can easily be used by teachers in the classroom, parents at home or students on their own to receive some amazing tools and skill set to help combat this new epidemic. In addition, a completely free to use e-book that helps students reflect and employ strategies can also be downloaded here:
Why Social Emotional Learning is important for kids?
- SEL helps students excel academically, build stronger relationships, and lead happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives.
- SEL helps young kids thrive personally and academically, develop and maintain positive relationships, become lifelong learners, and contribute to a more caring, just world.
About the author
Ghazal Qureshi is a (now) native Houstonian who came to Houston with her family from Pakistan in 12th grade. She is a Computer Scientist and has worked for over 20 years in the technology space. When she saw a lack of adaptive educational programs focused on developing critical thinking skills, she formed her first educational company in 2011, offering STEM afterschool programs. She grew from 1 location in Houston to over multiple countries. In early 2020, she was dissatisfied with the lack of innovation in education. For this reason, she exited her first company and formed UpBrainery which is an Innovative and Immersive educational technology platform coupled with neuroscience research-based programs in order to provide adaptive learning and individualized pathways for students at home or in the classroom. UpBrainery takes advantage of the technological advances in AI, Machine Learning and game-based education in order to provide an immersive and engaging educational experience.
Since inception, UpBrainery has won major accolades through Google for Startups, Forbes Next 1000, Houston Business Journal and others. UpBrainery is also the exclusive K12 educational pathway provider for the US Congressional App Challenge. www.UpBrainery.com