Start with mental health-connection, caring, and compassion
We used to think that our genes were set in stone. Epigenetics tell us that experiences children have early in life and the environments in which they have them in shape their developing brain architecture. Adverse childhood experiences lead to negative health outcomes. Positive childhood experiences are protective. Right now is an invitation for innovation; there is so much potential to equitably deliver best practices in culturally empathic ways.
Children will benefit from their communities and schools prioritizing high quality social and emotional learning and support. We want our children to learn not only math, science, history, but how to regulate their emotions, cope with stress, and treat others with dignity so they will be poised to become the leaders who will change our country for the better. It is our duty to prioritize mental health and emotional well-being to send the message that these are important and vital to anyone’s definition of success. Well-being is more than the absence of illness; it is the presence of positive health. There is no health without mental health. Let’s move towards positive youth development and thriving.
We learn, teach, and lead best when we feel valued, appreciated, and safe. Now more than ever we need to connect with one another, check in on one another, co-create collaborative and caring communities. I believe this has to happen first by listening, connecting, and hearing the voices of our students, families, and teachers.
Some ideas that do require resources:
-Parent education and parent support events with guidance. Reinforce SEL lessons learned in school. Practice gratitude over dinner.
-Youth advisory groups— empower students to become agents of change and be SEL, EDI, and kindness champions. How can they support one another during distance learning? How can they support others and in doing so, add to their own wellbeing, meaning, and purpose? Many youth leaders are ready to talk and want to be a part of a better world. Giving them the voice and platform will only strengthen our mission to support collective well-being.
-Teacher wellness programming- teacher support drop-ins, buddy systems, more flexibility and autonomy, optional wellness events
-Micro-mindfulness and frequent self-compassion
-Mental health literacy for all
Thank you for hosting this conversation!