4 Imperatives for a Safe and Supportive School Year

While students will soon be immersed in school and extracurricular activities, many face social challenges and will need support. When learners’ social and emotional needs become a priority, it can help motivate them to reach their full potential in the classroom and at home. 

Healthy conversation, effective problem-solving, and utilizing social and emotional learning (SEL) tools are some valuable ways of helping promote emotional and physical safety in the classroom.

Teach students the importance of healthy conversations and positive conflict resolution

It is important that youth learn communication skills so, more often than not, they share their thoughts and feelings. Effective communication builds strong social skills, helps children feel more confident in their interactions with others, and makes conflict resolution with friends, peers, and adults easier. 

Encouraging youth to express themselves also instills independence and empowerment. It teaches them that their feelings are valued, building trust and enabling them to also share any challenges or issues with the adults in their lives. 

 

Encourage peaceful problem solving

A study from the University of California, Berkeley found that “schools with a positive climate foster healthy development, while a negative school climate is associated with higher rates of bullying, aggression, victimization, and feeling unsafe.” It is helpful for parents and educators to teach students effective problem solving. Asking questions like “what ideas do you think could help make this situation better?” or “what is one thing you could do to help your classmate feel better?” helps kids resolve conflict peacefully. Teach children to look for common ground and respectfully talk things out. Be sure to validate the learner’s emotions while also helping them think ahead to what can remedy the problem. This is a form of embedded learning that will help learners know how to independently address issues

 

Employ role models to let kids know that conflict and challenges are normal

Young people may sometimes have trouble adjusting to social conflicts, changes, and emerging challenges. It is helpful to provide resources from mentors, counselors, or student leaders who can help them navigate changes. Getting advice from people they trust ensures them that they are not alone in their struggles, and they have a helping hand if and when they need it. This also helps students assess when they can solve a problem on their own and when they should ask someone with more experience for guidance. 

 

Utilize SEL

Studies have shown that SEL improves the emotional well-being of students and encourages positive behaviors. Research continues to prove that using an SEL approach in the classroom makes students feel safe and protected while creating a more positive classroom and school environment. A 2021 McGraw Hill report states that “Educators believe that SEL will help provide short-term benefits such as reduced behavioral problems (96%), improved grades (91%), and less emotional distress (95%).”

When children feel better about themselves and know their feelings are valued, they become inspired to excel and expand their learning horizons. A classroom free of negative distractions will reduce behavioral problems that occur when kids’ needs aren’t addressed.

It is impossible to completely avoid conflict and social challenges, but with the right strategies in place, adults can help kids effectively navigate these issues.

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