How your relationships and emotional well-being affect everything.

I was counseling a family last week about their son whose grades had dipped below grade level. He is a capable student; his testing showed strengths in all academic areas and functioning, so we were there to uncover why he was not meeting his potential. In reading the classroom observations made by the guidance counselor, one particular observation struck a chord with me. A friendship between this boy and another one was characterized as “distracting.” I dug into this social piece and discovered that his friend communicated negatively about schoolwork, enjoyed being distracted from the work, and was often pulling this student toward making poor decisions. As an experiment, I asked the parents to inquire about moving their child into a different class, just for a trial period of a few months. The school complied with their request, and the move was made. It was not long before we saw changes in the student. His affect, his work ethic, and his motivation improved. Slowly, his grades improved and we determined that space between these two individuals was helpful for both of the students. Meanwhile, the other student was embraced by the teachers, and without the support of a peer to encourage his negativity and poor decisions, he was moved toward using positive thinking, applying the growth mindset, and he was able to improve as well.

This experience made me think about the importance of who we surround ourselves with and our emotional well-being, specifically how our friends and coworkers’ thoughts and actions impact our work and life potential. In the past seven years, I have been challenged with quite a few lessons in this regard and each has taught me the importance of having healthy social and emotional well-being. I hope that my experience will cause you to think about the experiences of yourself and your children— perhaps an intervention of social and emotional positivity is in order. I give you a way to have one, if you need one, at the end of this article.

I was about six weeks into postpartum after having my third baby in 2013, and I was back to work. On paper, this gig was perfect. It was a part-time consistent job, but socially and emotionally, it was a challenge. I had spent years blocking out the toxicity — the incommunicative, disgruntled, and depressed people around me, the inconsistency with following policies, and the narcissism of the leadership, because I wanted the job to work. I reasoned it would change, or my own personal positivity would conquer all, or that I would be able to make a difference.

It was during one particular late night talk with my boss that I was given the “ah ha” moment. It was one of those moments in life where you realize the lessons have been coming along, but it was only during this point that I could receive them. It was evident my boss was once again angry, unhappy, and focused on all going wrong. She questioned my commitment to the work, my abilities to adhere to the ever changing protocols and communication networks. She was unsure of my abilities within the very profession I had studied and worked within for over a decade of my life. I left the conversation feeling more down than ever before, certain at this point that I had to make a change.

I knew I had more to offer the world than simply the endurance of a convenient job. My drive and heart for educating children were unquestionably positive, but since I was working within an environment where the focus was on the negative, that part of me was not strong. It was there, but not out on the surface. I began to fear mistakes, to question my process, to worry about the outcomes before even embarking on the journey. I saw my professional self erode and that made me sad.

Evolved Education became an opportunity I built out of necessity and as a direct result of my experience. I had to work; I have financial responsibilities, but more than that, I felt a calling to create a place where positive energy, great intentions and hard work would be celebrated. I created a mission for Evolved which would celebrate the strengths of students, and where we would empower educators who have the drive and pursuit to uncover every student’s potential. Evolved Education became my way of building my own social and emotional well-being.

Since those days, my commitment to promoting social and emotional health has remained strong, but my own personal struggle to pick the best relationships and environment for myself has not always been easy. Unlike the two boys in the start of this article, not every relationship is left with both people moving in the best direction. Over the years I’ve been building Evolved, I have had to say goodbye to coworkers, friends, and even my beloved role at my child’s schools’ PA board in order to forage forward in a positive way. However, with every ‘goodbye,’ there have been so many more ‘hellos,’ such as the schools, the families, the organizations we work with, my continued amazing marriage, and my friends and family.

The work I do every day to promote the wellbeing of the whole child is not without its obstacles, but it is 100% worth it in order to build social and emotional positivity for all of us.

How to Construct Social and Emotional Positivity

One way I know we can help everyone to become better versions of themselves is to promote social and emotional positivity.

Here are three ways you can build social and emotional positivity within your own life and for the lives of your children:

  1. Observe and Be Aware of Your Social and Emotional Interactions. Notice how you are interacting with people within your daily life (at work, at home, within your community). Pay attention to how your children interact with their peers, teachers and coaches and with you. What kind of energy are you exuding? Are you glad or mad most of the time?
  2. Label Experiences and Interactions. Notice if certain experiences or interactions leave you with a positive or a negative feeling.
  3. Make Plans to Increase Your Positive Experiences and Interactions. Move away from groups which are negative and dysfunctional. Put time and energy into relationships and ventures which promote your social and emotional well-being. Teach your children how to navigate peer relationships which are toxic.

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