For families across the country, this back to school season will be more challenging than any other, as families and educators face the impact of remote learning, a global pandemic, a financial crisis, and racial inequities intensified by the pandemic and amplified by historic protests and unrest. In fact, in a recent survey from The Allstate Foundation, when teens were asked how they felt about the upcoming school year, the top three responses were uncertain, nervous and stressed. What’s more, an overwhelming 73% of teens said that they feel more worried about their future now than six months ago.
In the middle of so much uncertainty, one thing is clear: for young people to thrive despite crisis and disruption, prioritizing social and emotional needs is critical.
More than two decades of research shows that SEL, or social and emotional learning, helps young people build important life skills like empathy, stress-management and resilience so that they can thrive in an ever-changing world. The Allstate Foundation is committed to making SEL part of every young person’s education – whether in the classroom, after school or at home.
So how can parents and families use SEL to help young people right now? The Allstate Foundation and its nonprofit partners compiled free resources that families can use to build important life skills, support each other and prepare children to handle anything that is thrown their way.
SEL 101: BUILDING LIFE SKILLS
Research shows that skills like resilience, empathy and teamwork are a better predictor of lifelong success than academic ability alone , and increasing these skills results in both immediate and long-term improvements in school, work and life. But what does this look like in the real world? The Allstate Foundation’s “Happy, Successful Teens” parent guide to SEL offers practical guidance for parents to help teens build these important life skills. The good news? Many families are likely practicing many of these skills without realizing they are SEL. This guide offers ways to continue to reinforce these skills to build stronger relationships and happy, confident teens. For more resources for parents and educators, visit The Allstate Foundation’s SEL microsite on WeAreTeachers.com and sign up for the monthly e-newsletter.
PRACTICE STAYING PRESENT
Sixty-two percent of teens surveyed by The Allstate Foundation said that worry and anxiety keep them being who they want to be. Daily mindfulness practice – the practice of paying attention to the present moment – can teach young people techniques to handle these difficult emotions, such as stress, anxiety, anger and more. The Allstate Foundation works with Inner Explorer to bring audio guided mindfulness exercises to schools and families. In classrooms, the Inner Explorer program was proven to reduce stress by 43%. While there are many benefits of practicing mindfulness, more than half of teens surveyed by The Allstate Foundation have never used a mindfulness or meditation app. Now, parents can download the free Inner Explorer family app, and begin practicing as a family every day.
TAKE A “VIRTUAL FIELD TRIP”
Soar with Wings – a partnership between Wings for Kids, Discovery Education and The Allstate Foundation– was created to equip educators with digital resources focused on social and emotional learning in the classroom and beyond. Now, families can bring SEL home with a “virtual field trip” and accompanying activity guide that lets kids in grades K-5 hear about the benefits of SEL from their peers, and gives families tools to practice these techniques together at home.
TALK ABOUT RACISM
While worry about COVID-19 runs high among teens, those surveyed said that racism is also a major concern. Parents can play a role in combating racism by engaging in constructive dialogue about privilege and prejudice to help young people process complex feelings and turn their concern into positive change. The Allstate Foundation’s partner CASEL (The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) offers key takeaways from their recent webinar “Owning Your Power To Raise Kids Who Challenge Racism,” including recommended reading for parents to build their own understanding of race and racism in the U.S. The full webinar is also available for viewing here.
WRITE IT OUT
Young people are feeling a wide range of emotions, and it can be difficult to fully express them. Keeping a journal can give kids and teens a place for private reflection, which helps them process these emotions in a productive way. However, more than half of teens surveyed by The Allstate Foundation say that they never write in a journal. The Allstate Foundation’s partner Facing History and Ourselves offers a guide to student journaling during the coronavirus. Designed for educators, this guide also serves as a resource for parents to encourage journaling at home.
 DePaoli, J.L., Atwell, M.N. and Bridgeland, J. (2017). Ready to Lead: A National Principal Survey on How Social and Emotional Learning Can Prepare Children and Transform Schools. Civic Enterprises with Hart Research Associates. A Report for CASEL.