FLOTUS holding a Zoom conference call (Photo: FLOTUS Office)

The First Lady and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos emphasize the importance of mental health in children during COVID-19.

On June 5th, First Lady Melania Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos received a briefing from Karen Baicker and Denise Daniels over Zoom about Social Emotional Learning Techniques (SEL) and how COVID-19 affects the mental health of children and families. Mrs. Trump’s “Be Best” initiative includes a well-being pillar, in which SEL highly contributes to.

The opening of the discussion highlighted why SEL and positivity are important in regard to the education and success of children. Positive habits that DeVos encouraged included kindness, determination, and respect. It then linked back to The First Lady’s “Be Best” campaign, as the Education Secretary made note of how vital it is for children to “unlock their potential” and “unleash their creativity” in order to be the best for themselves and those around them.

The emotional and mental well-being of children

Karen Baicker, executive director of the Yale Child Study Center-Scholastic Collaborative for Child and Family Resilience led a discussion on how the current pandemic takes a toll on the emotional and mental well-being of children and families. She mentions that there is a “long-term emotional recovery for parents, children, and teachers.”

Denise Daniels, the author of “The Moodsters” and “First Aid for Feelings” highlighted the importance of children being able to understand and express their feelings. Daniels became influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and created these texts in order to serve as a resource during such an unprecedented time. 

In particular “The Moodsters” is a series that “employs tools from the evidence-based SEL program in order to teach children how to recognize, understand, and manage their emotions.”

The discussion additionally recommended the implementation of SEL skills in schools as well as at home. The possibility of SEL resources being inaccessible became recognized as a real focal point throughout. The group then discussed “the innovative ways to work together to share this information more broadly.”