Living Classrooms has identified the need for mental wellness support in the community to help our families navigate the difficult emotions resulting from traumatic experiences and the stress that has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social Emotional Learning Programs are designed to teach coping strategies for the anxiety caused by the repercussions of the pandemic and the expected compounded stress connected to a mostly virtual school year. Our Director of Social and Emotional Wellness, Maritza Alcoreza-Dominguez, LMSW, designs curriculum based on age and need and guides mindfulness sessions directly with students, adults, and staff at several of our community-based sites.
Participants are challenged to expand their emotional vocabulary with group discussions about stress and how it feels physically vs. emotionally. Guided breathing to build self-awareness and connect the physical body helps reduce stress and regulate the nervous system. Participants are able to describe physical sensations they feel in their body and connect it back to an awareness that they are feeling stress. After developing the skill to take deep breaths in uncomfortable situations, students practice identifying how their feelings affect their behavior, further developing their ability to self-manage and control their impulses. In safe, empathetic spaces in our after-school and summer programs, students develop strong relationships by opening themselves up to these courageous conversations. All are encouraged to journal and use a prompt to check in on how they feel physically, what their bodies need, and how they are feeling emotionally. Students and staff are challenged to engage in self-reflection daily, in order to express how they are feeling in each moment.
Participants in Living Classrooms programs are learning a variety of coping strategies like:
Our students, transitioning from childhood to early adolescence constantly find themselves in uncomfortable situations. In our programs, students learn to reduce stress with deep breathing; expand their emotional vocabulary to express themselves more effectively; and communicate their needs, helping them make responsible decisions. Over time, participants develop self-awareness, the ability to self-manage their bodies and emotions, and identify how their behavior affects those around them – ultimately developing improved social wellness.
Contact: Maritza Alcoreza-Dominguez