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How Encouraging Self-Regulation in Schools Can Help Youth Living in Adversity 

In the final part of a four-part series titled Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University advised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families (ACF) on the importance of encouraging students' development of self-regulation, especially for those who are afflicted by the chronic stressors associated with living in poverty.

According to the researchers, "[e]stablishing a foundation for [self-regulation] during childhood and adolescence benefits communities and society as a whole by strengthening the workforce, increasing economic stability, and reducing costs for human services, medical care, and the justice system."

The researchers define self-regulation as "the act of managing one's thoughts and feelings to engage in goal-directed actions such as organizing behavior, controlling impulses, and solving problems constructively." They say the definition of self-regulation includes the currently popular buzzword "grit" while also being coupled with behaviors like self-control.

Educators and similar mentors, the researchers say, are important individuals who can use literacy, instruction and reinforcement to encourage self-regulation development. Though foundational self-regulation skills begin during a child's earliest years, they suggest that educators across all grade levels are important because "all people have the capacity to develop these skills with effective instruction, suggesting multiple opportunities for intervention across development."

In order to best provide students with self-regulation skills, the researchers recommend warm and responsive caregiving coupled with direct skills instruction.

For this reason, they recommend that the ACF partner with the Department of Education to use schools as implementation settings in order to best benefit "the populations ACF targets," which is youth living in adversity.

Integrating self-regulation into classes like health education, embracing positive behavior intervention supports, reforming disciplinary methods, incorporating self-regulation into existing professional development, and adopting a school-wide approach to helping students who have experienced trauma are just some of the ways the researchers say schools can serve as implementation settings.

Read the full report here.


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Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor



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