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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.


Raising Future Leaders Through Social and Emotional Learning

By Jessica Pedder

“Are people born with innate leadership skills?” As with most things, the answer is complicated: nature and nurture both play a role in developing leaders. In an article on parenting and leadership from the BBC, psychologists found that overprotective parents play a big role in stunting a child’s growth as a leader. Although they have good intentions with their coddling, trying to make sure their child doesn’t face uncomfortable challenges, this is unhelpful. Children end up less confident and less capable of facing difficulties on their own, exhibiting poorer leadership skills due to a lack of independence.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how to use social and emotional learning (SEL) to raise children with leadership skills in a healthy way.

SEL and Leadership

The best leaders are people with a hefty dose of empathy and emotional intelligence. However, in a write-up on promoting leadership by LHH, contributor Alex Vincent, PhD points out that empathy and compassion are skills that evade many leaders today. By prioritizing technical knowledge, modern leaders are rarely assessed on whether they can actually relate to employees on an emotional level. During times of crisis, it’s critical for leaders to know how to listen and express understanding over worries and stressors.

As we defined in our post called “How ‘Social And Emotional Learning’ Became The Newest Battleground”, social and emotional learning is a longstanding educational concept directed at children. SEL aims to teach kids how to manage stress, recognize emotions, work cooperatively, and treat others with respect. Using SEL techniques in raising your child can help them establish and maintain positive relationships with others, as well as make responsible, caring decisions.

Using SEL Techniques to Raise Compassionate Leaders

So how can we apply SEL techniques to raise our children? What can parents do? Here are three suggestions to consider:

Practice kindness with your kids

In a video on kindness by the World Economic Forum, experts say that spontaneous interactions where people lend a helping hand to others can produce positive emotions. Compared to regular volunteer work, which can get repetitive, unplanned acts of kindness can greatly improve our physical and mental health.

Good leaders are good humans. To cultivate SEL competence, teach your kids to look for ways to help others every day. Even small things like holding open doors, complimenting friends, or inviting someone new to play can build critical relationship skills. Moreover, it’s important to let children choose how they will initiate kind acts. This not only helps them be more proactive in promoting empathy, but will also help them make decisions with confidence.

Encourage children to go first

Leadership is often associated with tyranny, getting what you want and ordering people around. However, true leadership hinges on action. We need to teach them about service-oriented leadership, where true leaders do things first and set examples for others to follow. They take the initial risk and jump into uncertain territory, even if it could potentially lead to failure.

When possible, encourage your children to go first and lead the way. If their peers are afraid to try their hand at a new task, your child might be brave enough to volunteer. This way, they learn about the difference between acceptable or foolish risks, and exercise their judgment wisely.

Help children discover themselves through journaling

Self-awareness is an important component of SEL, and journaling is one tool to develop this skill. Journaling can be a form of self-expression, where children name their emotions. They can also write about positive or negative incidents and individuals then reflect on these experiences to better understand themselves.

In fact, reflection is a key part in developing leadership skills. According to insights on effective leadership from the University of Florida, starting your day with reflection can help you feel more leader-like. If your child has leadership tendencies, ask them to write about what kind of leader they want to be. You can also provide prompts on the topic by showing them different examples of leadership, then guiding them to shape their own opinions.

Jessica Pedder is a freelance business writer. Her goal is to cover the latest trends in business to help future entrepreneurs. In her free time, she plays chess and sails.

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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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How ‘Social and Emotional Learning’ Became the Newest Battleground

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a longstanding educational concept aimed at teaching children skills like managing stress, treating others with respect and empathy, working cooperatively, and recognizing emotions.


But even as some educators have turned to social-emotional learning as a tool to help students navigate the loss and disruption brought about by the pandemic, conservative groups and lawmakers who have sought to restrict how race and gender are discussed in school have also turned their attention to SEL, arguing that it too can be a vector for discussions about identity and equity.

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 weighed in with concerns that these many damaged 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 sufficient counselors and child psychologists to serve kids in trouble.

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

  • Share this message on your social media.
  • Share information about SEL with at least one parent you know. Send them to
  • 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
  • Arrange for one of our speakers to talk to groups you belong to. Email
  • 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.
  • 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. 


  •  See the real benefits to your company or organization and a range of ways to make a difference on this page. 
  • Arrange for 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. 

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How Extremely Busy Leaders Make Time to Be Great Parents

Reframe interactions as opportunities.

Each interaction with your child is an opportunity to deepen your caring connection. It can also be an opportunity for you to build a social and emotional skill in your child and in yourself if you view it in that way. Instead of being annoyed by your attention being pulled away from work to your child, you can see the chance for investment in their development.

Read the Authority Magazine article


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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Seven Ways to Help Your Child Master Emotional Skills

As a parent, one of your biggest priorities is raising happy, healthy, and successful kids. The actions you take while your child is young can influence their future in many ways. One positive step you can take to ensure their future wellbeing is helping them master emotional skills contributing to their emotional intelligence or “EQ.” Read on to learn more about EQ’s benefits and how to foster it in your child.

Recognize the Value of a High EQ

Emotional intelligence is becoming increasingly recognized as an important asset in all kinds of fields, from the creative arts to the business world. For example, according to American Express, research shows that business leaders with a high EQ tend to make better leaders. Beyond the working world, people with emotional intelligence can find greater success socially. Being able to tune into your own emotions also makes it easier to connect with others and their feelings.

Here are seven ways to boost your kid’s EQ:

Teach your kids to communicate emotions in a productive manner

The first step in promoting a high EQ is teaching kids to identify and communicate their emotions. Start by creating a safe space at home where little ones will feel comfortable sharing. RedFin explains how you can cleanse bad energy from your house, for instance by smudging it. Next, establish a set process for identifying and talking about your kids’ feelings. Start by naming an emotion and then discuss how to productively express it.

Engage in active listening when talking to your kids

When you talk to your kids about their feelings, you want to make it clear that their emotions are valid and matter. Otherwise, you run the risk of them shutting down and not wanting to share in the future. Towards this end, make sure to practice active listening when discussing these heavy topics. VeryWell Mind recommends making eye contact with your child, avoiding interruptions, and paraphrasing what they’re saying. Additionally, show interest by asking follow-up queries.

Use real-world opportunities to practice emotional communication

Talking about feelings is just half the battle. You also need to help your child put what they’ve learned about emotions into practice. Look for real-world opportunities to challenge their EQ whenever possible. For example, sports are a great way to teach impactful lessons about controlling feelings. Inevitably, your child will lose a game when participating in sports. Teaching them how to lose with grace and dignity can benefit them at any age.

Get your childcare support network involved

You aren’t solely responsible for your child’s upbringing. You probably have people who help, like your partner, babysitter, teachers, and family members. Enlist their support in helping to build your child’s EQ. For instance, when you have a parent-teacher conference with your child’s teacher, know what questions to ask. In addition to asking about academic issues, inquire about behavioral problems. You need to know what happens outside the home.

Find resources online to help raise your child’s EQ

If you’re struggling to teach your child basic lessons to build emotional intelligence, there are many resources available to help. EQuip Our Kids! offers online tools for free. There are also children’s books, television shows, and movies that can help demonstrate the importance of emotional control in a way kids can understand. Don’t just consume such media passively. Talk to your little one about it to make sure they are recognizing the lessons.

Serve as a positive role model by regulating your own emotions

Remember that your child is always watching you. You are their biggest role model. Act accordingly. If you get angry about small things, your child will think this is okay and may mimic your behavior. Instead, master your emotions. ZenBusiness provides tips to help. For example, if someone hurts your feelings, remember that hurt feelings are an indicator of how much you care. This knowledge can help you keep your reactions in check.

Remember to make time to just have fun

While it’s great that you want to teach your child positive lessons to master emotional skills, you don’t have to make every moment of the day into a learning opportunity. Make sure to leave time to just have fun. Play games, dance, and get silly. This will help you maintain a bond with your child. A strong connection with your little one will ensure that they are able to come to you whenever they’re struggling with their emotions. You can then help them navigate feelings in a healthy way.

Watching your kids grow up and discover the world around them is one of the most exciting parts of being a parent. Of course, you want to give your child all the tools possible to navigate their life’s path successfully. Teaching them emotional intelligence can help.

For more resources designed to help kids boost their emotional intelligence, see our online resources and online store.

Written by Carrie Spencer

(Photo by Monstera from Pexels)

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Protecting Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report

In his December 2021 report, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a new Advisory to highlight the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis. This important report has recommendations for individuals, families, employers, and others to improve the mental health of children, adolescents and young adults.

“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide — and rates have increased over the past decade,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

Murthy continued, “The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating. The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation. Especially in this moment, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variant, we also need to focus on how we can emerge stronger on the other side. This advisory shows us how we can all work together to step up for our children during this dual crisis.”

The report is a call to action for various groups. Here are some key takeaways that highlight social-emotional learning as part of the solution.

We Can Take Action

Support the mental health of children and youth in educational, community, and childcare settings. This includes creating positive, safe, and affirming educational environments and expanding programming that promotes healthy development–social and emotional learning being a prime example. Also, as a society we need to provide a continuum of supports to meet the social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs of children and youth. To achieve this, we must also expand and support the early childhood and education workforce.

What Young People Can Do 

Since many of the challenges young people face are outside of their control, we need a whole-of-society effort to support children’s mental health and wellbeing from birth to adulthood. That said, below are important steps children and young people themselves can take to protect, improve, and advocate for their mental health and that of their family, friends, and neighbors: 

  • Remember that mental health challenges are real, common, and treatable.
  • Ask for help.
  • Invest in healthy relationships.
  • Find ways to serve.
  • Learn and practice techniques to manage stress and other difficult emotions.
  • Take care of your body and mind.
  • Be intentional about your use of social media, video games, and other technologies.
  • Be a source of support for others.

What Family Members and Caregivers Can Do

Families and caregivers play a critical role in providing the safe, stable, and nurturing environments and relationships young people need to thrive. Below are recommendations for how families and caregivers can engage with kids during this youth mental health crisis, helping them become more resilient and addressing emerging: 

  • Be the best role model you can be for young people by taking care of your own mental and physical health. 
  • Help children and youth develop strong, safe, and stable relationships with you and other supportive adults. 
  • Encourage children and youth to build healthy social relationships with peers. 
  • Do your best to provide children and youth with a supportive, stable, and predictable home and neighborhood environment. 
  • Try to minimize negative influences and behaviors in young people’s lives. 
  • Ensure children and youth have regular check-ups with a pediatrician, family doctor, or other health care professional. 
  • Look out for warning signs of distress, and seek help when needed. 
  • Minimize children’s access to means of self-harm, including firearms and prescription medications. 
  • Be attentive to how children and youth spend time online. Digital technology can help young people connect with friends and family, learn about current events, express themselves, and access telehealth and other resources.
  • Be a voice for mental health in your community.

What Employers Can Do

Employers can play an outsized role in supporting the mental health of children and young people. They can directly help younger employees, such as high school students working part-time jobs or young adults starting out in the labor force after high school or college. For example, employers can provide affordable health insurance that covers mental health needs. Employers can also support children and youth indirectly. Below are some recommendations for how employers can support the mental health of young people:

  • Provide access to comprehensive, affordable, and age-appropriate mental health care for all employees and their families, including dependent children. 
  • Implement policies that address underlying drivers of employee mental health challenges, including both home and workplace stressors. Employers should: Offer paid family leave and sick leave where feasible. 
  • Create a workplace culture that affirms the importance of the mental health and wellbeing of all employees and their families.
  • Regularly assess employees’ sense of wellbeing within the workplace.

Want to do more in response to the youth mental health crisis? Find out how.