How does the need for privacy affect the wellness of young children?

In our effort to provide social-emotional learning for children, privacy is often in the foreground. The balance between the right to privacy of families, individuals and society is delicate and has become an important issue in recent years. Families and society often take a “don’t air your dirty laundry” position as a privacy shield, which unfortunately increases the burdens for children who have experienced highly stressful events.

Burdensome secrets can hinder a child’s ability to learn and function. When struggling with issues at home, or feeling unable to confide in caring adults, children can act out or shut down in the classroom, putting them at a disadvantage in their learning. Developing healthy identities throughout childhood is achieved through learning how to manage emotions, while receiving the necessary support to make informed decisions regarding their own well-being. This is where socio-emotional learning can be an asset to most classrooms, especially those dealing with disruptive outbursts or closed-off students.

Social-emotional learning programs are designed to help children address their traumas and express their experiences. When SEL is introduced within the classroom, it allows students a safe space to speak with one another, while teaching both self-expression and acceptance. This is beneficial for students as they understand that discussing experiences with others is not a burden, but instead creates a bond with their peers, while also helping to grant them a sense of self-worth.

The goal of integrating social-emotional lessons into the classroom is to benefit children, not to create tension between schools and families. A partnership and positive relationship between schools and parents is essential to success in these types of socio-emotional programs. Programs like Miss Kendra Programs give children the necessary resources and support to make sense of which secrets should be kept within the family, and which secrets are harmful to them and their mental and physical health and therefore should be shared. Children need to learn that some things need to be shared in the interest of their (and their loved ones’) safety, no matter what.

While issues within the home can create privacy concerns, it is important to remember that privacy is not a right, but a responsibility that must be taken seriously by all parties. Children need to have the knowledge to use their judgment and discretion in protecting their privacy when it is appropriate to do so, and speaking up when they are being maltreated or abused.

David Read Johnson, Ph.D. is the CEO of Miss Kendra Programs, a national classroom-based trauma program working with thousands of kids around the country featured in the documentary, Resilience: The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope.

David Read Johnson, Ph.D. is the CEO of Miss Kendra Programs, a national classroom-based trauma program working with thousands of kids around the country.