School’s Role in Enhancing Social & Emotional Learning in Teenagers [Interview Series]

Jaiyant Cavale, Clinical Psychologist

Jaiyant Cavale, Clinical Psychologist

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Amy Shaffer Interview

It is not becoming increasingly evident that the Covid-19 pandemic has harmed teenagers’ mental health and well-being. A recent systematic review found that children and adolescents displayed higher levels of depression and anxiety compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Regular suspension of classes, fear of infection, confinement in their homes, and lack of extracurricular activities have all affected how teenagers perceive the world around them. 

Schools play a unique role in helping youngsters develop the necessary social and emotional skills. To understand isolation, anxiety, and other factors that may contribute to dysphoria among teenagers, we spoke to the Mercersburg Academy team.

Mercersburg Academy provides unique guidance to students with mental health issues. We also found some insightful revelations from their team member Amy Shaffer Post, MSW.

social and emotional learning in teenagers
Teen consulting

1. What Sort of Problems and Challenges are Teens Experiencing Today?

As families head into back-to-school season, it is hard not to think about what the pandemic did to our kids, especially our tweens and teens. The collision of social media and pandemic-induced isolation has affected teen mental health.  

2. Before the Pandemic, what Were the Most Common Challenges Teenagers Faced?

As we know, long before the pandemic, American teens struggled with elevated anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that impacted their learning.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these statistics. In 2020, the American Rescue Plan encouraged more schools (about 52 percent of American Rescue Plan recipients) to ramp up their social-emotional learning resources. 

However, experts say these programs must be ongoing, integrated, and holistic to be genuinely effective. At the same time, with limited school funding and more professionals leaving the mental health field, students have less access to the crucial services they need to succeed. 

3. How is Your Organization Helping Teens Cope with Post-Pandemic Mental Health Challenges?

Beyond being a place that barely saw a blip in learning and extracurriculars during the pandemic, Mercersburg Academy has become where parents and students find solace and stability.

We want to highlight the contributions of Amy Shaffer Post, MSW, a vital part of our mental health team. This team guides students whose mental health issues are impacting their learning ability.

In addition, our specialized team has developed individual plans to teach coping techniques and provide faculty training on matters of concern. 

school social emotional learning

4. Please Tell us a Little Bit more about Amy Shaffer Post’s Contributions. 

Amy Shaffer Post is an expert who understands students’ need for evidence-based wraparound support. She has successfully implemented Social and Emotional Learning to improve student outcomes.

She was also responsible for bringing about an integrated approach to student behavioral health, which is now considered a best practice in schools. 

This year we will implement XBlock, an hour-long “class” that is held once a week to promote students’ holistic education and personal development by integrating co-curricular programming into the daily schedule. It centers around health and wellness, college counseling, clubs, and special interest groups. 

5. Does Amy Shaffer Post Have Anything, in Particular, to Share with our Readers?

Absolutely. When we asked Amy what she would like to share with your readers, she said –  

“Mercersburg is implementing a holistic curriculum during our XBlock periods, during which we discuss mental health, physical health, spirituality, and healthy relationships. We also combine these aspects with other non-academic yet critical developmental topics.”

“We are looking to shift our mindset regarding mental health from focusing on an illness model to a wellness perspective. To do this, we have changed our vocabulary from mental health-related jargon to “emotional wellness”. 

It’s always better to be proactive than reactive. Our health and wellness team works hard to help our students learn preventive strategies that allow them to stay physically, mentally, and emotionally well.”

“At Mercersburg, we create an atmosphere that allows students openly discuss the impact of one’s emotional wellbeing on day-to-day life. We have also implemented this model in our residential programs, small group opportunities, and through active listening of what our community needs to feel supported.”

6. How Open are Parents to these Programs? 

With applications for boarding schools at an all-time high, parents see the benefits of a safe, secure, and nurturing environment. Mercersburg Academy’s Dean of Enrollment Management, Liam Chatterton had this to share with your readers: 

“Boarding school provides students, teachers, advisors, and program leaders to bestow the social and emotional skills our youth need to face a changing world.”

“Furthermore, these are non-parental adults who specialize in teenagers. Our Health and Wellness Center is equipped for both new and traditional struggles students often deal with.”

Teen consulting
teacher helping students in developing social and emotional skills

Schools have a Role in Shaping Today’s Youth.

Institutions such as the Mercersburg Academy are at the forefront of bringing the best care to teenagers who need mental wellness programs.

By focusing on social and emotional skills, boarding schools such as the Mercersburg Academy have helped teenagers face challenges resulting from the pandemic and rapidly changing world. 

If you have a teenager who wishes to receive help at a boarding institution, speaking to institutions such as the Mercersburg Academy can be helpful.

In addition, therapists like Amy Shaffer Post, who focus on mental health wellbeing, can be powerful in your kids’ healing journeys.

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Jaiyant Cavale, Clinical Psychologist

Jaiyant Cavale, Clinical Psychologist

Jaiyant Cavale is an RCI-registered clinical psychologist who works with various populations. He has over ten years of experience working in different professional settings, ranging from multi-specialty clinics to private practice. He uses an eclectic therapeutic approach to treat acute and chronic mental health conditions.

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