These are uncharted, and often traumatic, times for children. Their life routine has been disrupted. They aren’t attending school as usual. They can’t interact with their friends. In many cases, milestones such as graduation have been postponed. People in their home might have lost their jobs.
Let’s not overlook the impact this experience has on our young people. This extraordinary level of stress can affect a student’s ability to learn, grow, function in social environments or manage emotions and behaviors.
Our local nonprofit, Community Circle LA (CCLA), is aimed at equipping all of us – but especially parents – with tools to help us identify and repair trauma’s damage and to develop a more resilient emotional backbone. Teachers and parents become allies who together foster a school climate that validates and acknowledges a student’s emotional passage, and the part it plays in preparing students to become committed, empathic members of their community.
CCLA uses Social Emotional Learning, also known as SEL, as its foundation. SEL assists trauma-informed educators and parents in seeing the intersection of Adverse Child Experiences (ACES) and social emotional learning. Parent volunteers are recruited and matched with a teacher for weekly 30-minute lessons that continue throughout the school year. The lessons cover an array of topics, such as self-awareness, integrity and empathy.
CCLA encourages parents to engage by guiding them to do the following:
- Be patient and firm, not impatient or controlling.
- Be kind and understanding, not cruel or quick to judge.
- Be involved and concerned, not removed or overprotective.
- Be loving and approving, not distant or critical.
- Listen and hear. Don’t interrupt or ignore.
This program can be used in schools to build healthy communities and serve as a platform for parents and teachers to help students struggling against the tide of bullying, exclusion, hypocrisy, cruelty and violence that currently pervades so much of our society. Through CCLA, students learn to express their feelings and are comforted knowing that social emotional skills and coping strategies are part of the school day and academic curriculum.
In our Safer at Home environment, parents can form their own community circles by virtually connecting with three or four families in their neighborhoods. Doing so will help them feel connected and supported and demonstrate the need for community, even under extreme conditions. Try to create a consistent routine each morning including deep breathing, a few yoga exercises, SEL activities and holding space for all people present.
Each skill translates directly to the school environment once students return to their classrooms. Through this experience, we can nurture each other’s best instincts and intentions and emerge from our collective confinement ready, willing and able to collaborate and participate in a more thoughtful and enlightened future for our children.
Linda Glaser is a parent, educator and the founder of Community Circle LA.Parents and teachers interested in the program should contact Sharla Lieberman at 310-721-4022 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Linda Glaser at email@example.com.