Helping Adults Help Youth With Emotions
Cheryl Simons MA, MFT
I am a California-licensed marriage, family, and child therapist who has maintained a private psychotherapy practice in N. California for the past 27 years.
I began my career with a focus on Jungian therapy and a passion for working with children and families. My discovery of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in 1998 added to a growing realization that having the ability to work with one’s emotions is a key to a good life and to good mental health.
DBT’s “skills deficit” model, which posits that, at the root of many mental health issues is a simple lack of skills, helped me more clearly conceptualize and articulate my own thinking developed through years of experience.
Using the DBT model, I created and led Emotion Education Groups for 6-12 year old boys. Many of the techniques I teach were tested and developed during these groups.
I have given talks on various topics in the field of psychotherapy for 18 years, and on Emotion Education since 2009.
Teach Simple Tools Based on Neuroscience
My experience and training in the fields of emotional intelligence, child therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) taught me that the development of emotion-based skills is critical to the creation of a healthy, happy, and successful life. The difference between having these skills and not having them can be the difference between coping successfully with a stressful event and experiencing it as traumatic.
Teaching these skills to children is a powerful inoculation against future problems: making for successful relationships at home and in the workplace, as they increase one's ability to engage with the challenges of life in a flexible way. As one of my adult clients said to me after learning some DBT skills: “Wow! I wish I’d learned these skills in childhood.”
"Wow! I wish I'd learned these skills in childhood."
Recently, we have witnessed the powerful impact of the pandemic on the psychological well-being of children and families. During the pandemic, I saw that the schools, as the place where children and families are most tied in to their communities, were experiencing the brunt of the crisis I saw that teaching emotion-based tools to teachers, parents, and students would be powerful “medicine” during these times of increased stress and anxiety.
It was at this time that I began working with my local school district, developing and hosting presentations and workshops and providing written instructions for teaching and practicing emotion-based skills.
I have since expanded my offerings to provide presentations and workshops (in person or online) tailored to a broader range of youth-focused service providers.
My webinars and workshops teach simple emotion-based tools in the context of the brain science of emotion regulation and stress management, tools which participants can use to help themselves and, in turn, can teach to students and children with whom they have contact.
In addition to providing information, I teach practical skills through interactive practice. I provide the information and the tools in ways that make it easy for those who may already be stressed to use them.
Studies show that possessing the skills to maintain a healthy relationship with our emotions is a cornerstone of good mental health.
From neuroscience, we understand what actions or tools help us work effectively with our emotions and thereby increase our emotional intelligence.
Many of these tools are easy to teach and to learn and their potential benefits are enormous.
Youth who learn these skills will experience positive benefits throughout their lives: improved relationships, improved job performance, enhanced leadership skills, improved mental health, a reduction in anti-social behaviors, and greater resilience in the face of stress and trauma.
My goal is to see that these tools are more broadly valued and understood by the adults who work with children, whether they are school personnel, teachers, counselors, juvenile hall workers, or other youth-focused service providers, so that these individuals will in turn teach them to the children and teens with whom they have contact.
Let’s strengthen the resilience of children and teens by teaching emotion-based tools to them and to the adults who work with them!