Fostering Emotional Health in a Virtual School World
Three ways to teach social and emotional learning during COVID-19

Distance learning during the COVID-19 school shutdowns has focused mainly on academics. While our focus should be on ensuring students do not fall behind, we also should not forget the other lessons children learn in school.

Consider social and emotional learning (SEL). School helps children become capable, emotionally healthy adults by teaching them how to develop friendships, get along with other people, and cope with disappointment.

How can you help foster SEL in your children when opportunities for social interaction are limited? We offer three tips for encouraging social and emotional learning at home.

Social and emotional learning and why it is important

Social and emotional learning is a process. It is the way children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) created a widely-used framework of five SEL core competencies:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills
  • Responsible decision-making

All of these lessons can be learned in school, either intentionally or simply by the very act of interacting with other students and teachers every day.

Learning how to resolve a dispute on the playground or work together on a group project may be just as important as learning how to read. Emotional and social learning can help children develop empathy and compassion for others, qualities that are desirable for a healthy society.

COVID-19-imposed social distancing and SEL

Because of COVID-19, students across the country have been confined to their homes for months. The fall is uncertain. Some school districts may return to school, while other districts plan to have “part-time” scheduling in which students alternate between on-site and virtual learning. 

Much has been written about the impact COVID-19 may have on academic achievement. We must also consider how children’s emotional health will be affected. 

The school closures and the general state of the world can lead to a high level of stress and anxiety. Students are missing friends and feeling isolated. They may be worried about family members getting sick or even about their family’s financial situation. 

This makes supporting the emotional and social health of children even more important. Here are three ways to help.

Foster ways to keep in touch

It may take some creativity, but it is essential to find ways for your children to connect with others, including teachers, classmates, and friends. 

Be sure to keep up to date with your child’s schedule and assignments. If your child is struggling with an assignment or a subject, this is a good time to ask for help. Schedule a check-in with his or her teacher when appropriate. The teacher may also be able to suggest new strategies or resources. 

Find ways for your children to interact with their friends. Video chats or activities that allow for social distancing are important for maintaining healthy connections. These regular get-togethers can help your child feel like things are somewhat “normal.”

Teach organizational and planning skills

Learning how to organize schoolwork and create a schedule is not easy for most children. In many ways, it is about teaching students how to learn. 

This concept can easily be applied to distance learning. 

You can help your child learn:

  • How to prioritize 
  • How to create a schedule
  • How to focus on one project at a time
  • How to create a checklist to ensure assignments are completed

This is also an opportunity to help your child learn self-motivation and the ability to get things done without constant supervision. 

Your child’s teachers can also help in this area. They may have organizational tips and resources for parents, also.

Find healthy ways to discuss current events

Current world events are unsettling. There are frightening images on the news that can be difficult for young children and even adolescents to process. Even if you limit television access, they are likely still aware of the issues. Perhaps they are getting information from social media or friends. 

It helps to sit down as a family to talk about these issues in an age-appropriate way. Take time to answer questions. Discuss their feelings and emotions and find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety. 

Maybe you can even talk about ways you can help others. Sometimes just having a “plan of action” can ease anxiety.

Here are more tips on how to talk to your children about COVID-19 from KidsHealth.org.


Tutoring at American Heritage School

Your child may need extra help to avoid falling behind due to Covid-19. The American Academy is offering a specialized Tutoring Program for Lower, Middle, and High School students.

Subject areas include:

  • Art
  • Computer
  • English
  • Foreign Language
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Education
  • Pre-Professional
  • Science 
  • Social Studies

Join The American Academy Program

The American Academy Program – a college preparatory school for students with mild learning differences - was created to help students who struggle with learning disorders.

Our small classroom setting allows students to receive more individual attention. Together with experts and teachers, we can ensure that your child is taught methods that will help him or her do well in school.

We are now accepting applications for the 2021-22 school year. Please reach out to Alexandra Rollins with any questions you may have.