SEL Family Newsletter September 1, 2020

Monthly Theme: Back to School

Welcome back families! Here at CVESD, we believe in educating the whole child—academically, behaviorally, and through social-emotional learning (SEL). These are stressful times and we feel strongly that focusing on our students’ emotional well-being is a priority.

Teachers will continue to include social-emotional learning (SEL) in their lesson plans using an MTSS framework (please see the video below for more information) but we also need your help as our students are stronger when we work together. To provide support, we have created this SEL Family Newsletter. This monthly newsletter contains resources, activities, and even SEL lessons to do with the family. We appreciate all that you do and are committed to partnering with you to support the social-emotional wellness of our children.

Setting Up Structures and Routines for Success

Children (& Parents!) Need a Sense of Structure and Routine

It’s that time of the year again: time to get ready for the back to school season! We know that in the last few months with COVID-19, many of us have fallen out of our normal routine and gotten into the habit of staying up late, spending our days in our pajamas, or watching too much TV. As we approach the first day of school, it is important to get your child back into a routine and excited for the start of the new school year!

To help, we’ve created a brief list to get your child (and you!) ready for smooth sailing on the first day of distance learning.

  1. Go back to school shopping. While this may look different this year, getting new pencils, a haircut, or a new school outfit can get us in the back to school mindset.
  2. Set up a bedtime. Not sure how many hours your child needs? Check out this article.
  3. Set out clothes the night before to avoid the morning rush.
  4. Have your kids get up with plenty of time to brush their teeth, get dressed, and eat breakfast before they log in.
  5. Have them use their backpack to keep all necessary school supplies and materials together.

Create a Kid Friendly Schedule WITH Your Child

Having a schedule provides a sense of structure and normalcy that can make distance learning more manageable. It is important to remember that the schedule does not need to be complicated and it is important to remain flexible.

Here are additional tips to help you set-up a successful schedule for your child:

1. Keep it as close to your child’s normal schedule as possible and include learning, play, chores, meals, and other activities.

2. Post your daily schedule so everyone knows what to expect. Make it fun, give your child a voice, and be creative (your child can draw picture for each schedule card).

3. Consider using a timer during asynchronous learning. For example, a thirty-minute timer for reading can cut down on the “When can I be done?” questions.

4. Schedule two or three times a day to get outside. If you can’t get outside, or you live in a place where you can’t be at a safe distance from others outside, play physical games indoors, like Simon Says, Freeze Dance, or Red Light, Green Light.

Above all, as you navigate your new routine, try to cultivate patience, practice empathy for your kids and keep a sense of humor.

Create an Emotionally Safe & Calm School Space

One of the best ways to support our children emotionally is to create a peaceful environment that is emotionally safe. An emotionally safe environment is a warm and loving environment where children have a voice, can make choices, and are not excessively criticized. It helps children learn as they are able to stay calm and focus, as worrying triggers the stress response system which affects working memory, attention, and concentration.

With distance learning we also need to consider the physical space where our students will be engaging in learning. Here are some practical ways to help set-up a safe and peaceful learning space for your child:

  1. Make sure your children have their own physical space to learn that is free from distraction, humiliation, or stress. While their own desk is one solution, you can create an inexpensive and private workspace with a tri-fold display board (see examples below).
  2. Create quiet signs that the whole family can use when on a call or in need of focus.
  3. Make healthy snacks that your kids can grab if they get hungry and make sure they have ample water in their study spaces.
  4. Check in with your children often to see how they are doing and feeling. Ask them how they feel about the daily schedule, lessons, and their feelings in general.
Sample Distance Learning Workspaces
Self-Care for Parents
  1. As mentioned above, create a schedule and routine. It is important to have structure in your day as well! You may also benefit from setting alarms with different sounds for different activities.
  2. Don't forget to schedule in time for you and your family's emotional and physical health! Take breaks and have downtime.
  3. Take care of yourself. Self-care can look different for everyone. Find what works for you (examples are to your right)!
  4. Stay connected to your community. Make time for routine video chats and phone calls with friends and family. You are not alone in this! Connect with other parents via Chula Vista Community Moms Facebook Group, your school’s PTA, or through your child’s classroom.
  5. Seek support! If you are having a difficult time and are concerned about you or your family's mental health, check out the resources listed below!
  • San Diego Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240 provides mental health crisis intervention and referrals to mental health services and operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • California Parent & Youth Helpline at (855) 427-2736 offers a weekly online support group for parents, as well as a hotline with trained and compassionate counselors. All services are free and available from 8am–8pm every day!
Social-Emotional Learning at Home

In the first month of school, your children are working on building relationships with their peers and teacher as part of social-emotional learning (SEL). They are doing this through community circles/Meet-Ups, SEL lessons, and relationship building activities.

A Meet-Up/Community Circle is a safe discussion space with the purpose of building community, and preventing/solving conflict where everyone has an equal voice. Typical Meet-Ups/Community Circles involve prompts/quick connection cards so students are able to get to know one another better. This is something that you can also do at home and even incorporate into your meal routines.

When starting, choose easy and fun prompts and don't forget to answer them yourself. As your children become comfortable, you can ask deeper and more thought provoking questions that give you insight into how they're feeling. For a more information and sample prompts for the month, please see below.

Sample Dinner Circle Topics

  • If you won the lottery, what are three things you would buy?
  • If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would you choose and why?
  • If you could have any super power, what would you choose and why?
  • What is your favorite family tradition and why?
  • What was your high point and your low point of your day?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how are you feeling and why?

Home SEL Activities

Most schools are using Sanford Harmony (SEL curriculum) activities to build classroom relationships. Below are ideas to reinforce what they are doing as a class for SEL as well as activities to try at home. For more information, please see Harmony at Home, a free resource Sanford Harmony created to support distance learning.

Younger Students (Adapted from Sanford Harmony)

  • Ask your child if (s)he was assigned a buddy. If so, ask your child three things that (s)he learned about his/her buddy. If your child has trouble, practice coming up with questions that (s)he can ask and have your child report back.
  • Come up with 5 questions that you and your child can ask each other about your likes/dislikes (i.e., favorite food, color). Help your child see what you have in common and what is different. Next, ask your child about his/her classmates and try to find a student or two who has a common interest.
  • Ask your child how it felt when (s)he attended school online.

Older Students (Adapted from Sanford Harmony)

  • Your child’s classmates are getting to know one another better by either sharing items that are important to them or pairing with "buddies." Ask your child to describe what (s)he learned about his/her buddy. Were there any surprises?
  • Challenge your child to find something they have in common with someone who is seemingly completely different. This could be a relative, friend, or neighbor.
Created By
Elizabeth Gianulis