If there’s something we learned during the past couple of years, it’s that our children’s mental health and emotional well-being are also very important. Here are some awesome Asian women who help moms nurture their child’s socio-emotional learning (SEL).
In this article, you’ll read:
- What is SEL and why is it important?
- Female entrepreneurs who teach kindness through books and flashcards
- Their tips on managing kids’ stress and anxiety at home
Children’s book author, Valerie Cheng; Kind Little Humans Feeling Cards; Online book entrepreneur Lia Cua
As we start 2022, I wanted to direct parents to a more positive and purposeful New Year ahead by talking about socio-emotional learning or SEL.
Maurice Elias, a psychology professor at Rutgers University and director of the university’s Socio-Emotional Learning Lab, describes SEL as
“The process through which we learn to recognize and manage emotions, care about others, make good decisions, behave ethically and responsibly, develop positive relationships, and avoid negative behaviors.”
We are all aware of the uncertainties of going back to face-to-face school. Many parents like myself fear the further negative effects this may have on our kids.
I choose to direct my kids’ learning today towards the other skills of a 21st-century learner other than content and critical thinking, which they learn more in school (the other C’s according to Hirsh-Pasek include communication, collaboration, creative innovation, and confidence). I found my “one” solution through “SEL”.
As I see my kids repeatedly struggle and overcome the challenges this pandemic, I realize how building our children’s socio-emotional side is equally, if not, even more important in these ever-changing times.
For this reason, I would like to share with you the thoughts of three very interesting people that may serve as a guide for us parents in SEL – Valerie Cheng, a children’s book author based in Singapore; Amabel Japitana, co-founder of Kind Little Hands, and Lia Cua, a bright teenager who opened her online bookstore this pandemic.
Asian mom writing books about mindfulness for kids
As parents, we are always in search of resources that will help our children understand concepts like peace, kindness, and mindfulness. This is one of the inspirations behind Valerie Cheng’s book “Where in the World is Peace?”
The book has a simple but powerful message: we all experience anxiety, stress, and big-feeling moments at one point in our lives, but there’s always a way to find peace. I like this book because it teaches calming skills to kids, like breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation, letting go, and affirmations, which I only learned in my 20s.
As parents, Valerie and her husband, Jeff, believe that social and emotional learning (SEL) is extremely important to help children manage their emotions, feel and show empathy for others, make responsible decisions, and communicate and have healthy relationships with people around them.
Valerie Cheng with her book, “WHERE in the World is PEACE?” and a photo with her husband Jeff and kids.
As a mom of three, she learned there are a lot of fun ways to teach kids about socio-emotional learning.
“There are lots of activities and tools we use to help our children develop SEL. We believe it is the little things that are important. It’s the day-to-day experience that matters.
We bond and communicate with them, we bring the kids to the parks to play, we do arts and crafts, we cook together, we feed fishes together, we volunteer and help different organizations so they learn empathy and compassion, we do Family Trust Circle time, and we meditate together at night.
We make sure the communication lines are always open, so they can come to us for help and support anytime. We also make sure we play together as a family,” shared the children’s book author.
Valerie believes that playtime is extremely important for children, because that is how they learn how to interact with the world around them.
“Play helps them to understand who they are, helps them to understand cause and effect, helps them to learn problem-solving and decision-making skills.
It also hones their creativity, develops their motor skills, develops their communication and language skills and develops empathy and confidence,”she shared.
Mindfulness tips for fellow parents
For managing stress and anxiety at home, she encourages parents to try teaching their kids simple tools like breathing exercises, meditation and words of affirmation to help them find their peace.
“It’s okay to have big feelings like stress and anxiety, everyone experiences it, you are not alone. Stress and anxiety is like a huge wave or storm, we need to practice breathing and meditation, so that when the wave or storm comes, we would know how to deal with it,”she said.
Valerie also suggests trying to have a “Family Trust Circle,” an exercise where the family members can talk openly and say affirmations and express their gratitude towards one another. You can also discuss goals and ask for help and support.
Daddy Jeff also chimed in and gave some tips to parents on how to take care of their own mental health.
“I try to create a space where I can be quiet and alone with my thoughts. Often this is when I go on long walks in the park or connect with nature as this gives me peace.
Even just silently walking and observing the world helps release our active bodies to ensure there is space in our minds for calm. I find feeding fishes in the ponds in our condo also very relaxing,” he shared.
As a family, Valerie and Jeff involve their children in a lot of activities that practice mindfulness and also kindness. One activity you can imitate at home with your kids is the “Kindness Rocks Project.”
“We paint rocks with positive messages and leave them near the function room for people to get and to share with others.”
They also bring their kids to volunteer at the soup kitchen and set a good example by volunteering in other charitable institutions.
“We believe helping others by sharing your blessings, talents and skills helps you to appreciate what you have, learn gratitude and it changes your perspective on life,” shared Valerie.
Her book is available on websites of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Powell’s, Booktopia, and other independent book sites.
Pinay childhood education experts turned entrepreneurs
The next interesting person is Amabel Japitana, who co-founded Kind Little Humans with Emily Bautista. Both took their Masters in Education at Bank Street College in New York and have been educators for more than a decade. Amabel Japitana has taught in New York City, Manila, and Nepal. Emily Bautista is currently teaching in Boston, Massachussetts.
Co-founders Amabel Japitana and Emily Bautista with their newest product, Kind Little Humans Feeling Cards
Kind Little Humans came about as a response to the challenges of families and educators during the height of the pandemic. It aimed to create an online space that could offer some support and community for those raising and working with young children during this difficult time.
In their Instagram account, they share positive and useful information, tips, and points for reflection on early childhood development and raising children. They particularly choose to focus on what research and experience have been telling us for a long time about the early years: that relationships, emotional well-being, and play are crucial, and matter much more than early academics.
For Amabel, socio-emotional learning is extremely important in young children. Some parents think that this is only secondary to academic learning, but SEL includes learning to manage emotions, feeling and showing empathy for others, establishing relationships, setting positive goals, and making responsible decisions. These skills, for her, are in fact, crucial for children to thrive, do well academically and become successful adults.
As an expert in childhood education, she also believes that play is the most natural way for children to learn and develop. At play, young children learn about themselves- who they are, what they like and dislike, what their capabilities are. They build their sense of independence and confidence.
When they play with others, they learn how to exchange ideas, express emotions in appropriate ways, empathize and engage in perspective-taking.
New research shows ways parents can affect their child’s concentration
5 Things You Can Do To Raise An Emotionally Secure Child
How a feelings chart can help your child express and understand emotions better
Tips for handling big emotions
For parents whose kids are coming to them with big emotions, especially during this pandemic, here’s Amabel’s advice:
“Take a deep breath and accept these emotions. For many of us, the first reaction we may have when children come to us with their emotions may be to dismiss or distract. This does not teach children to experience, understand and manage their emotions.
A better approach is to simply acknowledge their feelings and allow them to come and go. When we acknowledge and validate children’s feelings, children learn that feelings are normal and can be expressed,”said the child expert.
She also encourages parents to help their children to name their emotions. According to her, reading or seeing pictures about feelings are great ways to learn the words for feelings and what to do with them.
“Note for grown-ups: research shows that the act of naming an emotion can help calm the emotional circuitry in the brain,” she shared.
In line with this, Amabel and Emily have developed tools for social and emotional learning that are also appealing to children.
“We have just created our Kind Little Humans Feelings Cards, which help nurture children’s emotional intelligence and will be releasing more learning tools next year,” she shared.
For older learners, Amabel suggests looking for simple ways to get a hold of their big emotions.
“Think of different things you can do to keep calm or feel better and write them down. These could be getting a drink of water, taking deep breaths, going for a walk or listening to your favorite song.
Whenever you are experiencing a difficult moment, you can try to problem-solve for yourself and ask, ‘What can I do to feel better?’ You can then choose one of the strategies you listed that you know works for you. You begin to manage your emotions independently. “
You can follow them @kindlittlehumans.ph and pre-order their Feeling Cards by clicking here.
Teaching socio-emotional learning by selling books
Last but not the least, I would like to end my discussion on this topic with a “kidspiration” on how healthy socio-emotional learning at home can lead and empower kids to be the best that they can be even during this pandemic. Let me introduce you to Lia Cua.
Lia is the owner of The Great Inspiration, an online bookstore on Instagram that is focused on inspiring kids aged 7+ and kids at heart to find joy in reading.
“Ever since I was little, I loved reading and books. My parents instilled a love of reading in me and encouraged me to read as much as I could.
Over the years, some of my interests may have changed, as have some of the kinds of books I read, but I still enjoy getting lost in a good story,” she shared.
Initially, she created her bookstore because she wanted to start earning money on her own. She learned from her parents that when going into business, it is important to focus on something you are passionate about. This thought allowed her to positively translate her passion for books and reading into a business.
How does reading help a child build confidence?
“I think that reading, especially reading fiction, is important because it allows you to dream. A good story can cheer you up on a bad day, or inspire you to reach a goal in life, or just remind you that things will always get better,”said Lia.
Image from ThegreatinspirationPH Instagram account
My personal hope is after reading these thoughts on socio-emotional learning, we, as parents, can understand better its importance in 21st Century Learning, as well as feel more empowered that we can be our kids’ primary “SEL” teachers at home.
Happy “SEL” New Year and Happy “SEL” Learning Journeys to your families this 2022!