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Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for Parents

“We have learned about emotions and how to detect stress in people and help them, especially in our children. If children have stress, they do not do well either emotionally or academically.” -Adriana Martinez

The Enlace Education Department is delivering a series of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) workshops to Little Village parents, with the goal of supporting SEL both at home and in the classroom. Rocio Garcia, Enlace’s Parent Engagement Coordinator, is coordinating this effort. “Students are receiving instructional time at each school for SEL. Parents have little exposure to SEL,” she explained, “and they need to understand what it means in order to support students and children at home.” SEL learning standards set by the State of Illinois reinforce the skills that students need in order to develop and establish healthy relationships, learn about themselves, and maintain their mental and emotional wellbeing. Enlace’s eight community schools have been integrating these standards into out-of-school youth program curriculum for many years.

Through the workshop series, parent participants learn about neuroscience and neuroplasticity, parts of the brain and their functions, emotions and how they are created, various emotional states, self-control, and concepts such as “amygdala hijack.” Workshops are delivered in Spanish, and they are designed to support parents in applying what they learn at home. “One of the steps that they teach us in the workshops is to breathe, and to give people time to think and express what they feel, let off steam,” said Adriana Martinez, mother of three children. Margarita Márquez also found the workshops to be beneficial for her personal growth. “I started attending these workshops at a time when I most needed it, when my family was passing through a painful time,” she said. “I learned about emotions and it helped me to support my daughters and to know how to talk to them.”

In addition to learning technical concepts, participants establish social relationships with other parents, share experiences, develop emotional support strategies, and learn about other programs and opportunities in the community. Rocio Garcia explained that, during the workshops, a dialogue is generated between all participants; they share techniques that they use to improve their self-control, as well as support what their children learn in school related to SEL.

During the 2016/2017 school year, Enlace’s Education Department conducted 24 parent SEL workshops with a total of 241 participants. During the upcoming 2017/2018 school year, the department is facilitating a train-the-trainer to prepare parents to be co-facilitators of the group, with the goal of increasing parent leadership. Currently, there are ten mothers participating in this training, and three will be co-facilitators in upcoming workshops. After the success of its first year, we are excited to see how this initiative continues to grow.

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