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Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a relatively new concept in teaching. The concept comes from CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). Essentially, it’s the idea that things that happen socially cause an emotional impact and can influence learning in children. Teachers are trained by the social staff within the school to develop skills to better address these issues.


If you’re a parent of a special needs child, like I am, you’re probably ready for this type of learning in your school. In advocating for my son in the school system, I have been a great supporter of social-emotional learning. Not only does it benefit typical children but it is also a strategy that should be used when forming IEPs (Individual Education Plan) for special needs children. Here’s why it works.

Social-emotional learning gets results

In studies done by CASEL, there was an 11 percentile point gain on average in students that participated in SEL. Helping children tap into their social side and learn to interact with their peers creates greater participation and makes working in a group setting easier. There are fewer behavioral problems and greater achievement overall. 

Think about what that means for children with issues such as autism or ADHD. It provides a willingness for inclusion and an openness to listen to all points of view. This also sets up special needs children for better modeling of their peers.

Destress and plug into positivity

The key factors in SEL are to teach social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making, and self-management. By touching on these parts of their selves, children learn to understand one another and develop deeper relationships with their peers. They learn to tune into others’ feelings and develop coping strategies for difficult times.

When they develop these skills, research has shown that children show less depression and anxiety, and withdraw less socially. Even years later as adults, those taught with the SEL program were still able to deal with stressful situations better than those without SEL. Many of these coping strategies are the same strategies that our special needs children are taught through therapies. What makes SEL great is that every child is on the same page and they are learning these skills together.

Bring it home

The SEL program is designed to bring the learning home to the family and even to the community. It’s a program based on respect. It teaches us to learn who we are as individuals and what our needs are in the moment and beyond. Teaching how to communicate those needs is essential in life, and not every child has a home life that follows this path.

Let’s face it, we live in a busy world, full of obligations and stress. Most days, I’m just trying to get dinner on the table and homework done. Families that learn to talk openly about feelings without judgement and work toward solutions together will strengthen the connections that are already present.

Now imagine your community doing the same thing. Much of the research conducted and discovered by CASEL has shown that children involved in SEL have grown to be better workers. Many work places are also adding some components of SEL to their training platforms.

Gone are the days of negative reinforcement and corporal punishment, thank goodness. There has been so much research done in the past 20 years that shows how harmful these old ideas of parenting and teaching have been. The answer has been with us the whole time as it goes along with the Golden Rule: treat others the way we would like to be treated, even our children. The SEL program is a great way to begin.

Ask your school about it. Be an advocate for your children and push for the type of learning that involves the entire self. At every IEP meeting that I have had for my son, the same issue is always brought up: if the problem isn’t directly related to academics, it cannot be addressed. However, when I begin to point out that his anxiety over facing a class where he knows no one will create an environment where he cannot learn, they pause.

The emotional impact that our children feel daily will undoubtedly spill over into learning. Children who have difficult home lives or who are extremely introverted will experience that same emotional overspill. There are so many life situations that can play a role in how our children learn. SEL is the perfect way to address them all.

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Alexis Ohanian has made a lot of important decisions in his life. The decision to co-found Reddit is a pretty big one. So was marrying Serena Williams. But right up there with changing internet culture and making a commitment to his partner, the venture capitalist lists taking time off after his daughter's birth as a significant, life-changing choice.

"My understanding of showing up and being present for my wife was taken to a whole new level when Olympia was born. I was able to take 16 weeks of paid leave from Reddit, and it was one of the most important decisions I've made," Ohanian says in an essay for Glamour.

A nearly four-month parental leave is something too few American mothers, let alone fathers, get to take. Even when fathers work for companies that offer generous parental leave packages, they often don't use the benefit for fear of being sidelined or seen as uncommitted. A recent survey by Talking Talent found fathers typically use only 32% of the time available to them.

In his essay, Ohanian recognizes that he is privileged in a way most parents aren't.

"It helped that I was a founder and didn't have to worry about what people might say about my 'commitment' to the company, but it was incredible to be able to spend quality time with Olympia. And it was perhaps even more meaningful to be there for my wife and to adjust to this new life we created together—especially after all the complications she had during and after the birth," he explains.

(The GOAT's husband is making the same points that we at Motherly make all the time.)

He continues: "There is a lot of research about the benefits of taking leave, not only for the cognitive and emotional development of the child but for the couple. However, many fathers in this country are not afforded the privilege of parental leave. And even when they are, there is often a stigma that prevents them from doing so. I see taking leave as one of the most fundamental ways to 'show up' for your partner and your family, and I cherished all 16 weeks I was able to take."

👏👏👏

By first taking his leave and then speaking out about the ways in which it benefited his family, Ohanian is using his privileged position to de-stigmatize fathers taking leave, and advocate for more robust parental leave policies for all parents, and his influence doesn't end there. He's trying to show the world that parents shouldn't have to cut off the parent part of themselves in order to be successful in their careers.

He says that when his parental leave finished he transitioned from being a full-time dad to a "business dad."


"I'm fortunate to be my own boss, which comes with the freedoms of doing things like bringing my daughter into the office, or working remotely from virtually anywhere Serena competes. My partners at Initialized are used to seeing Olympia jump on camera—along with her doll Qai Qai—or hearing her babbling on a call. I tell them with pride, 'Olympia's at work today!' And I'll post some photos on Instagram or Twitter so my followers can see it too," Ohanian explains.

"The more we normalize this, on social media and in real life, the better, because I know this kind of dynamic makes a lot of men uncomfortable (and selfishly I want Olympia to hear me talking about start-ups!)," he says.

This is the future of family-friendly work culture. Take it from a guy who created an entire internet culture.

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Trigger warning: Some of these responses describe a women's experiences with child loss.

Anxiety is one of those concepts you can never truly grasp until you face it yourself. And, each person's anxiety can announce itself in different ways—for some, it's postpartum anger, while for others, it's an overwhelming feeling of worry about a pregnancy. This can be especially prevalent if you're at high risk, concerned about telling your boss or undergoing medical issues. If you suffer from anxiety, know you're not alone in this mama. In fact, women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men.

These mamas shared how they manage and cope with their anxiety on Chairman Mom:

1. Hypnobirthing class

"I took a hynobirthing class at a nearby parents resource center—it was phenomenal. The class changed my emotional forecast for both the pregnancy and delivery. I uncovered a calm existence that lived dormant inside a very anxious body. For quick help at my fingertips, I love the Headspace app. My favorite quote pops up on the screen before I tap to complete a meditation 'Rather than the mind leading the breath, allow the breath to lead the mind. Keep glowing!'" —Jenny

2. Journaling

"It took my husband and I three years to have our IVF miracle baby after a devastating miscarriage last summer. I was wracked with anxiety for the entire duration of my pregnancy and it got worse as I got closer to his due date. The one thing that helped me was to journal. I wrote to the baby constantly about every step of the process and was very raw and real about the emotions I was experiencing each step of the way."—Anonymous

3. Set some ground rules

"[While I was on strict bedrest for 10 weeks] I tried to set ground rules for myself—I 'indulged' in worst case scenario/message board/Googling for exactly 30 minutes each day, and had to fill the rest of the bedrest time with other positive activities. I controlled for the factors I could, and just tried to chill out about everything else. Easier said than done, but I forced myself to breath deeply and try to limit the physical effects of my anxiety."—Milo

4. Therapy

"I feel like this could be my answer for many questions, but I say get to therapy. Anxiety can be a normal part of parenthood and it's a good idea to take the time before baby comes to build your tool kit and to feel like, even though it is full of unknowns, you have prepared your heart for the wild ride that is motherhood. I am an anxious person by nature, a worrier, a big feeler— learning that this is okay and that I can use it to my advantage has been empowering beyond measure. You are not alone and you will get through this. Hugs to you. If you are an "action person" and can't/won't get into therapy right now, this workbook has a lot of good, practical exercises."—Stratton

5. Reading this book

"I found a book called Finding Calm for the Expectant Mom useful. The major anxiety reducer for me during pregnancy was walking, because it was the only time I didn't feel sick early on and then later it was the only time the baby wasn't kicking me (which is supremely comforting and yet not). I found going with a mid-wife rather than a doctor helped alleviate a lot of anxiety. In Ontario (Canada) this is covered by OHIP (provincial health insurance). Midwives have way more time and patience. All appointments are booked for 30 minutes, so you never feel rushed."—Sian

6. Find a super knowledgeable OB

"I'm currently pregnant (second trimester) with two complications one of which can cause stillbirth. I found the best way to reduce anxiety was finding a super knowledgeable OB that I could talk to about treatments and milestones. Ask them about what kind of monitoring they'll do for you in the third trimester (NST/BPPs). Talk about contingency plans. I also found a doula that has been wonderful to talk with about the process of birth and the potential of NICU time and emergency c-sections (both not that uncommon with other women that have the same condition I do.) I whole heartedly recommend finding a therapist that you can talk with about your fears and anxieties. Look for ones who specialize in new moms. If there are any support groups for mamas with your high risk condition I also urge you to seek them out. Setting a limit for how much time you spend there is also extremely wise. And know that there are women who will experience loss in those groups. That doesn't mean you will." —Anonymous

7. Yoga, working out + meditation

"[After a miscarriage] what I've learned is that all that worrying didn't make a difference. It didn't make me feel any more prepared or okay once I lost the baby. And it limited how much I enjoyed those three months that I was pregnant. Next time I'm not going to read anything or Google anything or read any odds. I'm just going to take everyday as a gift. I know that's easier said than done. Yoga, working out, meditation. Being around people who don't know because then you can't talk about it or obsess about it. Warm baths, tea. Just be super super nice to yourself. Don't worry about what you should be eating or shouldn't be eating, etc."—Anonymous

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Having a new baby is incredibly hard. And beautiful and fulfilling and rewarding, of course—but definitely, definitely hard.

Especially the nights.

Watching the last rays of sunlight disappear would make my heart race. My 3-week-old baby didn't sleep for more than an hour and a half at a time and had zero regard for what time it was.

She was so tiny and helpless—and it was my responsibility to keep her safe and fed and healthy. For me, that was easier during the day. Because at night, it felt unfair knowing my husband and toddler were fast asleep a few rooms over.

The minute our newborn would wake, I would spring to action. Bottle, breast, pacing the floor, bouncing on an exercise ball, loud shushing into her tiny ear—I would do whatever it would take to get her to quiet down so she wouldn't wake the rest of the house.

The evenings also started to feel very isolating. It's hardly appropriate to call your mom or friend or sister at 1 a.m. when your baby starts spitting up a curdled milk mixture so hard it comes out of her nose. And even if I did call anyway, it wouldn't matter because they wouldn't answer because they'd be sleeping.

I was used to anticipating a lack of sleep each night, which was terrifying. I felt such dread knowing I would only get a collective two and a half hours of sleep before my toddler would wake up at 5:30 a.m, ready for his morning dance party.

Fear would strike me at night, too. An incapacitating, all-consuming fear that something might happen to my sweet baby girl while she was lying peacefully in her safe crib, in her baby-proofed nursery. I often wondered how I was even supposed to sleep with such intense worry on my mind.

I would stare for hours into the pitch black night, half of me thankful my baby was healthy, the other half of me terrified something would happen to her.

I'd feel irrational in the late hours of the night (or more likely, the wee, wee hours of the early morning) often reacting with full-on annoyance because as soon as she'd started to fall asleep I'd think, this is it—I can finally get some rest, only for her to wake up a few minutes later. I'd snap, "Seriously? All you do is eat!" at my tiny baby, which would automatically trigger intense guilt over what felt like such an uncontrolled emotional response.

"It gets better" and "sleep when the baby sleeps" are two sentiments I hope never to hear again in my life because—does it get better? Well, yes it does. Children don't usually turn into adults who only sleep for 90 minutes at a time. And sleeping when the baby sleeps sounds good in theory but it's impractical. Plus, neither statement helps at 3 a.m., TBH.

I went to extreme measures to quell my anxiety. I sent my husband to Walmart in the middle of a tropical depression to buy a rock 'n play. Then I sent him back when he returned with the version that didn't vibrate. I put a $300 Owlet monitor on a credit card. I used Amazon one-day shipping to obtain a copy of Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block.

I eventually found there's no magic solution to aid in this season of parenting. It helps to find a community of women going through the same struggles. Prioritizing self-care and spending time connecting with your significant other are also healthy ways of dealing.

But I'm going to level with you—for the first three months of my baby's life, I didn't have time to seek out a support group, wash my hair or converse about one meaningful thing with my spouse.

I was in survival mode and the only thing that helped me was time passing and binge watching Downton Abbey.

And walks around the block. And coffee.

If you loved the newborn stage and came through it with fond memories—I applaud you.

If you gave it all you had and emerged on the other side with a baby who (mainly) sleeps through the night and is somewhat happy, most of the time—you deserve a standing ovation.

You managed to prevail in a time that required intense mental and physical stamina, and you nailed it. Great job, mama.

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Mothers can be found at the top of many professions, and the current generation of fathers are doing more than the dads that raised them, but we can't pretend that working mothers and working fathers are on the same playing field.

We are jumping over hurdles while the men beside us are sprinting down a clear track. This simple metaphor illustrated by a Peruvian cartoonist at La Republica captures the complex challenges faces by working mothers. Thanks to a tweet by Mumbai-based billionaire Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, the cartoon went viral and has gotten people talking about the hurdles in our lane.

Even now, in 2019, mothers in heterosexual partnerships are often seen as the default parent. We carry a heavier mental load than our male counterparts, work more hours doing unpaid labor, spend more time on childcare and have less time to care for ourselves. Research has actually found that men's leisure time increased after parenthood, while mothers see their workload at home increase.

Mahindra tweeted the image after watching his grandson for a week. "I salute every working woman & acknowledge that their successes have required a much greater amount of effort than their male counterparts," he captioned the comic.

Mahindra is right that we're putting in more effort, but we're certainly not being paid more. When men become fathers they often see their earnings increase, while many mothers get passed over for promotions and report being hit with the "motherhood penalty". And women still make $.80 to a man's dollar in America.

This isn't just bad for moms, but for the men married to us, too. According to a study published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues, marriages suffer when women feel they are sacrificing their careers and doing more than their fair share for the family. "Mothers in dual-earner households experience greater parenting inequalities than do similarly-situated fathers," the researchers note.

This breeds resentment, and it can also create a situation where dads don't feel like an equal or capable parent. The solution, according to experts, is simple: We need to divide household responsibilities more evenly between partners. Only then will the playing field be level.

This cartoon didn't go viral because it's funny. It's the opposite. But it is relatable to many mothers. The good news is that we can knock down those hurdles, and investments into childcare and paid parental leave can help us do it. Being a working mother is hard, but we can do it.

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