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  • Hannah Hernandez Falk

What is the Whole Child?


In speaking with parents who are new to the term, I am often asked, “What is the whole child?”

Over nearly the last 100 years, our idea of success and focus in both educating and raising our children has been placed in preparing our children for success in their careers through studying, getting good grades, raising to the top of their class, graduating with an above average GPA score, and landing that dream job.

Over the last 20 years, research has taught us that while educating the mind is important, it is not necessarily enough to guarantee success.

The Whole Child is both, mind and heart.

Studies have shown that children’s social and emotional functioning and behaviors begin to stabilize around the age of eight and can predict the state of their behavior and mental health later in life. In other words, if children learn to express emotions constructively and engage in caring and respectful relationships before and while they are in their lower elementary grades, they are more likely to avoid depression, violence, and other serious mental health problems as they grow older. Research suggests that helping children to develop social and emotional skills early in life makes a big difference in their long-term health, well – being, success in career, greater life satisfaction, and happier relationships with peers, friends, family, and spouses. 1

Social Emotional Learning skills nurture the while child through teaching 5 skills: 2


  1. Self-awareness: Recognizing one’s thoughts feelings, and how these encourage or challenge one’s choices or actions.

  2. Social Awareness: Identifying and understanding the thoughts, beliefs, and feelings of others. Respecting and appreciating diversity. Understanding the effect of one’s actions.

  3. Self Management/Motivating Oneself: Setting and achieving goals while delaying short term gratification and impulses that may distract from goal achievement.

  4. Responsible Decision Making: Evaluating internal motivations, information, and external outcomes of choices before acting, taking responsibility for all outcomes once choices are made.

  5. Relationship Skills: Communication, listening, sharing, and negotiation skills that encourage positive, healthy, rewarding, and long term relationships with individuals and groups.

Social emotional learning goes beyond the mind, and educates the heart. Combined with traditional education, this indeed is a formula for success, the stuff the most inspiring and effective leaders, managers, parents – adults are made of. Preparing a child for life, is both, mind and heart, this is the whole child.

Sources:

1. Huesmann, L. R., & Guerra, N. G. (1997). Children’s normative beliefs about aggression and aggressive behavior Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72 (2), 408-419. 2. Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why It can matter more than IQ. New York: Bantam Books. 3. Fredericks, Weissberg, Resnik, Patrikakou, & O'Brien, Schools, Families, & Social Emotional Learning. University of Illinois, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.

Sources:

Fredericks, Weissberg, Resnik, Patrikakou, & O'Brien, Schools, Families, & Social Emotional Learning. University of Illinois, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

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