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Today, First Lady Melania Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos participated in a Zoom meeting for a briefing by Karen Baicker, executive director of the Yale Child Study Center-Scholastic Collaborative for Child and Family Resilience and Denise Daniels, author of “The Moodsters” and “First Aid for Feelings,” on Social Emotional Learning Techniques (SEL) and the mental health implications of COVID-19 as it relates to children and families.

The First Lady opened the discussion highlighting how SEL is a major component of the well-being pillar of her Be Best initiative. Mrs. Trump stressed the importance of supporting the mental health of America’s children as it is vital for their education and gives them the best opportunity to succeed in life. The First Lady then introduced Secretary DeVos who emphasized the importance for America’s rising generation to practice more positive habits like kindness, determination, and respect towards each other. The Secretary noted how students need the freedom to unlock their potential and unleash their creativity so they can be best for themselves, their families, in their communities, and to our country.

The First Lady and Secretary DeVos were then briefed by Denise Daniels, author and parenting and child development expert, who specializes in the social and emotional development of children. Daniels developed “The Moodsters” and “First Aid for Feelings” workbooks to help children cope during difficult times and to teach children the fundamentals of understanding and expressing their feelings.  Ms. Daniels discussed her inspiration behind the “The Moodsters” and how the “First Aid for Feelings” workbook evolved to serve as a successful learning tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. Daniels described “The Moodsters” series and how it employs tools from the evidence based SEL program in order to teach children how to recognize, understand, and manage their emotions.

Karen Baicker, Executive Director of the Yale Child Study Center–Scholastic Collaborative for Child and Family Resilience, then opened up the discussion on the current mental health crisis as it relates to children and families, and touched upon the long-term emotional recovery for parents, children and teachers during the current pandemic.

After the briefing, the First Lady and Secretary DeVos engaged in a question and answer session touching upon various topics and the “First Aid for Feelings” workbook. They learned how the workbook has helped children to cope during the coronavirus pandemic and how it has helped to alleviate stress and anxiety and encourage youth to express their thoughts and feelings, while at the same time providing parents and caregivers with simple strategies to help kids handle emotions.

The discussion also focused on how schools are able to build upon SEL skills learned at home during the coronavirus pandemic and the practical ways schools can use these resources when they return to school in the fall. Additionally, the group discussed the barriers to children accessing SEL resources and the innovative ways to work together to share this information more broadly.

The First Lady, Secretary DeVos and participants also spoke about the major mental health challenges that impact our young people and what can be done to address this and how parents can best collaborate with mental health professionals and school officials during these uncertain times.