Developing Social and Emotional Learning Outcomes through Drama

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Developing Social and Emotional Learning Outcomes through Drama

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Developing Social and Emotional Learning Outcomes through Drama

How can we successfully redirect emotion in children and younger youth, specifically boys from poor backgrounds?

Children and younger youth, specifically ages (7-12) develop their emotions at different paces as well as in different spaces (at home, school, and in community programmes) Their emotions often become intense because they are learning how to manage them, with a limited support network.

Intensity or emotional ranges from low level (apathetic, discouraged, and depressed) to high-level emotional wavelengths (extremely enthusiastic to the point where they are used to always getting their way, to violent aggression and unruliness without just cause) are the results of driving energy forces of both physical and cognitive indicators.

The majority of this youth population has difficulty adhering to structures administered by authority figures, and are often criticized for their undesirable behaviour by staff who misunderstand their needs, whereby they carry out an urge to rebel. The rebellion we see is merely an attempt to be understood and spoken to on another wavelength or emotional level. One’s tone must shift from loud talk and hot headedness to one of neutral, yet added compassion for the situation the youth has placed themselves. To challenge a young person who has not mastered the skills to defend themselves accurately and manage those feelings is utterly out of character.

All children have the capacity to blossom through the imagination and demonstrate their passions, regardless of resources and socio-economic status. Although children living in poverty conditions face many more challenges in their social/emotional and personal development.

Through my own experiences as a teaching artist, I have observed when challenged and pushed to show their creativity they are able to unveil these depths.

However, when they are not being asked the right questions or getting the attention they need to develop the qualities that will allow them to expand on creative execution and passion, limited stimulation of words and understanding of both basic and more complex concepts are blocked.

It can be frustrating to work through, not only on an emotional or behaviour management level, but also one may feel stuck at times wondering how to gage their abilities through new activities and ideas. These youth are being programmed to think in a certain way through media, music, and video games that any attempt to teach them other ways of engaging or living poses as a challenge and somewhat as a threat to what they have already been conditioned to be.

Furthermore, the attributes and qualities that must be refined and skills we are looking to develop for future successful emotional well-being are:

Enhanced focus, sustaining the attention span, creative problem solving/resolving, and advanced reasoning skills. They have to learn how to maintain the fluctuation between feelings that are not levelled to match the reality of the situation and its consequences.

Behaviour in a general sense can be represented through both internal and external expressions. Internal includes anxiety, mood swings. External includes: anger, hitting, punching, and crying.

There are several coping strategies in which we can use to level these different modes of intense behaviours:

As educators/youth workers:

1). Talk to children and youth about their emotions openly rather than cover them up by demoralising their actions or negative choices. That will not help rectify the action. Controlling the behaviour and getting to the root of it takes shape when we are able to translate the raw feeling into something tangible that we can speak on and express to them about, so that they can more concretely understand what they did wrong and encourage learning for the next situation. This also further exemplifies developing an emotional vocab as to how to express the behaviour or feeling.

2). Help youth identify their emotional wavelength pattern so colliding feelings do not become overbearing.

3). Take a breather- Create distance to let go and stay calm. Yelling at a child with intense emotional levels who is untrained to manage them only begets yelling back and further intense rebellion, and the reverse of what you want them to do in order to change.

4). Focus on their positive behaviours. Rather than continuing to harp on what they are doing or have done wrong in the past, stay in the present moment with them, and put the focus of the conversation on reminding them that you know why they are acting this way and what they should do to improve their situation gently.

These attributes will slide through the cracks unless we correct our own attitude towards them and practice these indicators with ourselves, so that they are easily transferrable to the behaviours of the children and youth we support. Growth can only take place if we position ourselves to grow through our own situations. Perhaps, then these youth will be given the opportunities to embrace and explore them in stronger ways that lead them to follow success.

By Lindsey Sherwin

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