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Keeping All Kids Safe and Well

Visualizing our children safe as they work and play is a quick way to calm our fears and anxieties about their wellbeing.  But it only provides temporary solace. More focused action is needed if we want to see sustained results. 

There’s good news for parents who want to take that action. A constellation of organizations are eager to lend their support by promoting access to those programs and services that can help keep their kids safe.

Building life skills

Not-for-profit organizations like Committee for Children and EQuip Our Kids! rely on the latest research from leading university and government sources to design programs that can help youth build personal and interpersonal life skills—their lifelines to a promising future.  Observing youth who use these skills offers compelling evidence that they do indeed make a difference.  Kids learn new ways to deal with problems, so they rely less on resorting to aggression and hyperactivity.  They also learn alternate ways to deal with anxiety and depression.

Resilience promotes readiness

One of the most important life lessons we have learned from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is that such skills like resilience matter. The challenges of dealing with this pandemic required us to be strong and flexible – the same critical mix of skills that kids will need in a post-pandemic era  to  make smarter decisions when faced with all the unexpected circumstances they will encounter as they grow to be adults. 

 Incorporating safety into family routines

Home-based routines can help build that resilience, reinforcing what children learn from SEL (social and emotional learning) curriculum. This is especially valuable for those kids who worry about the welfare of their family, so much so that their anxiety interferes with getting enough sleep.  EQuip Our Kids!’s resource, How Incorporating Safety into Bedtime Routine Can Help Ease Your Child’s Anxiety, offers parents helpful tips for alleviating their children’s anxiety, especially during that all-important period that precedes bed time.

EQuip Our Kids! staying on course

EQuip Our Kids!,  a national nonprofit campaign, continues to lend their support  to other campaigns, such as Committee for Children, that advocate teaching youth life skills.  They recognize that parents and businesses can be important partners in advocating for the adoption of SEL (Social and emotional learning) curriculum which this nonprofit aims to include in every preK – 12 classroom by 2030.

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Seize the Moment to Talk About Social-Emotional Learning

Parents and businesses can be effective partners in promoting social and emotional learning (SEL) within their family, business and school environments. At home they can create opportunities by modeling its principles with their children.  At work businesses can work to align their policies with diversity benchmarks. 

But at school, where the opportunities may look more like challenges because teachers and administrators are often balancing competing  priorities, getting and keeping their attention to talk about SEL-based curriculum can feel like a fruitless attempt.

Break Your Message Into Short Call-For-Action Suggestions

To find a conversational opening, parents and businesses can borrow a common teacher technique:  Break their message into short call-for-action suggestions that teachers and administrators can act on without stretching their resources. 

For example, they can take cues from ten indicators listed in a recent study developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning [CASEL]. These indicators, shown below, describe what a comprehensive SEL implementation looks like. Schools that don’t already offer comprehensive SEL probably won’t be able to implement everything that’s missing all at once.

Here we offer a simple call-for-action suggestion related to each indicator:

Indicator of Comprehensive SELCall to Action: Encourage Your Schools To…
1. Explicit SEL InstructionCelebrate cultural holidays
2. SEL integrated with academic instructionIncorporate cross-cultural music studies into lesson plans
3. Youth voice and engagementEngage students in a key-decision-making activity
4. Supportive school and classroom climatesEncourage inter-classroom activities
5. Focus on adult SELEncourage inter-staff activities
6. Supportive disciplineAssess whether current discipline policies are equally applied and restorative.
7. A continuum of integrated supportsEncourage SEL buy-in among staff at all levels
8. Authentic family partnershipsSuggest activities where parents can partner with school staff
9. Aligned community partnershipsInclude a community organization in a school SEL-oriented event
10. Systems for continuous improvementSuggest a process for measuring progress in SEL implementation

Appeal to Their Competitive Spirit

When encountering resistance, parents may want to try the time-tested technique of appealing to the school’s competitive spirit:  To aid their study, CASEL received survey responses from approximately 1,200 K–12 classroom teachers and 1,100 school principals.  Seventy-six percent of the principals and 53 percent of teachers nationally reported that their schools used a social and emotional learning (SEL) program or SEL curriculum materials in the 2021–2022 school year. 

There has never been a better time to join this growing movement.

If you want more ideas about how to talk with your schools about SEL, check out our guides for parents and for businesses.

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Remember, School is More Than Grades

It often looks like a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

School curricula typically favor teaching kids ‘applied knowledge.’  This is the type of knowledge that can easily be tested and graded.  But this tunnel approach often backfires later when graduates enter the workforce.  According to the recruiting firm THE PRINCIPLE GROUP, such ‘soft skills’ as effective problem solving, time management  and collaboration – skills that are given less of a priority in their curricula –  are among the top eight skills that hiring managers value in 2022.

Teachable Skills  

The non-academic ingredients for success are all teachable life skills that Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum provides.  Otherwise known as EQ or Emotional Intelligence, these skills are measurable and deemed critical for creating a successful workforce, notes the National Network of Business and Industry Associations. Still just a small fraction of schools, less than 30%, include comprehensive SEL training in their curriculum.

Increasing the number of schools implementing comprehensive SEL by just one percent means approximately 400,000 more kids gaining critical skills for success in school, work, relationships, and life.

EQuip Our Kids! to the Rescue

EQuip Our Kids!,  a national nonprofit campaign, has taken the lead in raising awareness about addressing this vacuum.  We recognize that parents and businesses can be important partners in advocating for the adoption of SEL curriculum which this nonprofit aims to include in every preK – 12 classroom by 2030.

To help jump start those conversations with key school contacts, EQuip Our Kids! is now offering a free downloadable school engagement kit for parents, loaded with conversation starters and all the talking points needed to start those discussions that can influence decision-makers at the adminstration as well as teacher level to consider the critical benefits of including SEL training into their total curriculum. 

Parents can also help their children continue to  hone these SEL skills at home by taking advantage of EQuip Our Kids! weekly parenting tips

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Social and Emotional Learning Skills Offer Stress Relief for LGBTQ+ Youth

By Patricia Kutza

During the month of June, as they have done for over fifty years, LGBTQ+ youth and their allies around the world will join pride marches, celebrating their right to be accepted fully for who they are. They will march knowing that many gains have been made since the 1969 Stonewall riots spawned the Gay Rights Movement. (The riots were triggered by a police raid at the Greenwich Village-based Stonewall Inn in New York City, a popular gay bar.) But they will also march knowing full well that outside the welcoming confines of pride parades they are still seen as easy targets by those who prey on the marginalized.

There is no guarantee of safety in any spaces for those who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer. According to the findings of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)  more than a third of LGBTQ+ youth surveyed report being bullied in person while in school and almost as many (26.6%) bullied online. They have felt so threatened that at least 13.5% of them choose not to attend school at all.

Damaging Fallout

The fallout from marginalization and bullying casts a wide net: Spiraling depression – sometimes terminating in suicide – and risky substance abuse reflect youth grasping for coping mechanisms to ease the pain of abuse. And no LGBTQ+ youth, no matter their economic or social standing, escape its destructive effects. The actor Elliot Page, who publicly came out as transsexual in 2020, shared the accumulated effect of this harassment in a recent Esquire Magazine interview: “Bullying puts you in a place where, later, you have so much unlearning to do. If you’re getting teased and made fun of and called names on a daily basis, there’s no way that’s not going to get inside of you—particularly when you’re already feeling so much shame.” 

Too often internalizing that shame is a major contributor to increasing rate of suicide among LGBTQ+ youth. According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

Providing a Safe Place

Feeling safe is such an integral part of feeling whole that the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health recommends the earliest of reinforcement – providing supportive environments from infancy within their families and peers. Schools also act as incubators, building community awareness and capacity to understand and address stressors that contribute to the LGBTQ+ perilous experience.

Coupled with a variety of suicide-deterrence techniques that include skills and gatekeeper training and behavioral screening, evidence-based social emotional learning (SEL) programs within a school setting promote healthy life skills, well-being, and a positive school environment. According to a 2019 Committee for Children report, its emphasis on self-awareness, self-management and social awareness strategies create  spaces where kids can feel safe expressing their identities.

Alleviating Hopelessness by Investing in SEL

Self-esteem builds on self-awareness and makes youth more willing and capable of using stress management skills to cope with stress. Finding strategies that work often helps alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety. Cultivating social relationships also mitigates feelings of hopelessness, creating a less lonely environment by lowering feelings of anxiety which increase the risk of suicide.

Investing in SEL strategies at the school level offers LGBTQ+ youth a safety net, protecting them from abuse while strengthening the skills they need to fortify themselves in a world that is slow to offer the feeling of safety they deserve.

About the author:

Patricia Kutza is a partner (with Connie Payne) in DGMS & Co. Their company offers books and workshops based on social and emotional learning principles to schools, labor workforce units and senior living communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Jay Levin on The Great Resignation and the Future of Work

To build the more human workforce of the future, we need to start teaching all kids Emotional Intelligence skills right now. Emotional Intelligence is often call EQ. It’s like IQ for your heart.

A workforce that is curious, empathetic, imaginative, motivated, and purposeful doesn’t start with someone’s first day on the job. It starts in schools and families and communities. Businesses need to get behind this effort in a big way, or else they’ll be way behind the curve very quickly.

Read the full article

 

 

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Do One Thing for Social-Emotional Learning

Each of us doing one small thing makes a huge difference.

You could do one small thing from the list below to help some of the millions of kids suffering emotional “devastation” from Covid-era restriction.

Declaring  a national “youth mental health crisis,” U.S Surgeon General Murthy was echoed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which worries that many children face a lifetime of mental and emotional problems compounded by learning problems. 

At the same time you will be helping create preK-12 school cultures that teach kids how to manage their feelings, traumas and relationships so they don’t go on to shoot other kids.

Dr. Murthy specifically called for rapid advancement of what educators call “social and emotional learning” (SEL) in all schools. SEL has the ability to teach kids how to manage their emotional and mental states, re-open their capacity for learning, and gain life skills for success. This approach is especially needed because there aren’t enough counselors and child psychologists to serve kids in trouble.

YOUR ONE THING might be one of the following (below are what your businesses can do):

  • Share this message on your social media. There are sharing buttons at the top of the post.
  • Share information about SEL with at least one parent you know. Send them to https://equipourkids.org.
  • Ask the HR director where you work to contact us for free information or free SEL workshops that would be helpful to parenting employees at your workplace.  They can email contact@equipourkids.org.
  • Arrange for one of our speakers to talk to groups you belong to.
  • Parent or not, call your local school (ask for the principal) or school district (ask for the superintendent) and tell that person you support comprehensive SEL in schools. It doesn’t matter if you are not a parent. You can use this guide to help you.
  • Call or email your state legislators and tell them you support comprehensive SEL in schools. Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re not a parent.
  • If you are a parent of school-age kids or younger, practice SEL tools at home. Visit our Child/Parent Emotional Health Toolkit . And sign up for our weekly Parent Tip Newsletter.  
  • Donate a few bucks to our campaign that effectively mobilizes support for SEL from parents, the public, employers and others, as well as directly assists grassroots educator organizations in their work advancing SEL into our schools. 
  • Volunteer with us. You can find listing on our volunteer page and also at Taproot.

FOR BUSINESSES AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS:

  •  See the real benefits to your company or organization and a range of ways to make a difference on this page. 
  • Use our webinars featuring parents who are SEL experts for your parenting employees and/or customer parents. You can also choose a webinar (or just a meeting) for your executive team to learn more about beneficially engaging with this national education movement and its range of options. 
  • Call your local school district, ask for the superintendent, and tell that person you support comprehensive SEL in schools. It makes a difference to you as a local employer and taxpayer. You can use this guide to help you.
  • Arrange for one of our speakers to talk at your next internal company meeting or industry event.

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President Biden Recognizes #SELDay 2022

National Day Supporting Social-Emotional Learning
Draws Unprecedented Recognition

Across the country, educators, parents and businesses rallied on March 11 for the third Annual SEL Day in support of Social-Emotional Learning in American schools. The day was a tremendous success by every measure:

  • President and First Lady Biden recognized SEL Day and the importance of Social Emotional Learning with a White House proclamation. This signals to educators across the country that there is now support for SEL from the highest level.
  • Proclamations also came from the governors of California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
  • More than 2,300 schools, districts, and organizations participated across all 50 states.
  • Over 7 million views and more than 33,000 #SELday likes across social media.
  • #SELday trended on Twitter for more than 5 hours on March 11th.

EQuip Our Kids! hosted six online panels, five of which featured parents who are SEL experts describing the transformation in their own children from experiencing SEL in their schools. Panelists included:

  • Scarlett Lewis: Sandy Hook mom, Founder and Chief Movement Officer, Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement
  • David Adams: CEO of The Urban Assembly, co-founder of SEL Day
  • Jennifer Miller: author of “Confident Parents, Confident Kids”
  • Michael Strambler, PhD.: Associate Professor at Yale University School of Medicine
  • Patricia Wilkinson: author of “Brain Stages: How to Raise Smart, Confident Kids and Have Fun Doing It”

As Scarlett Lewis noted during the event, Social-Emotional Learning provides “Incredible life skills like knowing how to have healthy and meaningful relationships and connections, manage our emotions, how to make responsible decisions, how to grow through difficulty.”

You can watch all the sessions at the Equip Our Kids!  YouTube playlist.

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Enriching Education: SEL Day 3/11

The third annual SEL Day on March 11, 2022. SEL Day celebrates the growing movement to equip all preK – 12 students with the social and emotional life skills they need to be happy and successful in school, relationships, work, and life.

This year, EQuip Our Kids!, a nonprofit advocacy organization working to increase awareness of SEL,  is hosting an online webinar featuring parents who are SEL expert parents whose children have transformed and thrived from experiencing SEL in their schools.

Read the full article