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New Program Will Help Elementary School Children Develop Social Skills

empathyWhen you think about Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service what comes to mind? Parent support groups? Youth outreach at the Middle School? Peer leadership groups at the high school? Now SFCS is offering a program targeted to the younger members of the family – to help elementary school students develop their social skills.

The new program is called S-O-C-I-A-L and will use an evidence-based curriculum called Second Step to help younger children navigate successful relationships. Using a variety of games, videos and interactive lessons children will learn to:

-Make friends
-Regulate difficult emotions
-Be empathetic
-Resolve conflict

Why is this program needed? According to SFCS Executive Director James Genova, “Young children don’t have the language capabilities to put into words what they’re feeling -- and because of their development their ability to self-regulate emotions is limited. When you see children acting out – some might call it misbehaving. We don’t see it this way. We interpret it as a child expressing his or her distress. Behavior becomes a language. They are trying to communicate with adults is that something is not working.”

Who would benefit from the program? Genova says, “All children --will experience normal social conflict and most will resolve it on their own. But if kids are consistently having social conflicts and as a result are more isolated or not able to make friends, that might be an indicator that the child is struggling with their social skills.”

We asked Genova for an example of a group activity that might be utilized. He said, “The lessons are diverse. Kids will learn through games and videos that make learning fun. We might show a video of a vignette of a situation -- perhaps a conflict in the lunchroom -- followed by a discussion of the incident. Kids will be asked, “What might that person be feeling? Do they look sad? What cues are there?” In this way they will learn how to recognize the cues and associated words that go with emotional expression and help children understand how their behaviors might impact someone else.”

The groups will be organized by grade with groups for K-1, 2-3 and 4-5. While the same lessons will be taught in each of these groups, the deliverTALKABOUT ADVERTISEMENT.Fall 2019y may be different depending on the age of the children.

Genova explained that the philosophy of the agency is rooted in family systems. He said, “We are always dealing with how the individual affects the family and the family affects the individual. This defines what we do. It doesn’t mean that every family member comes to every session. But all of our programs have a family component.”

As a result, this program will include three parent workshops to help the parents of the kids enrolled to understand what they are working on in the groups so they can reinforce it at home. These workshops will give parents a place to express challenges and frustrations and will also help parents to develop a nice network with each other. Genova noted that sometimes parents of children with difficulties feel isolated. These groups will give them an opportunity to interact with other parents.

The groups will be facilitated by Susan Panarella who is a licensed master of social work and has 14 years of experience working with elementary-aged children in both schools and outpatient settings. She is also a mindfulness educator.

The weekly sessions will be held in the SFCS offices in the Harwood Building from 4:30 – 5:30 from October 15 to December 10. Interested? Call Executive Director James Genova to enroll at 914-723-3281.

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