The Covid- 19 outbreak and resulting school closures have many parents wondering how their children can continue their social-emotional development, in addition to academics, without the socialization and leadership opportunities provided in the school environment and after-school activities. But there are still many ways that teens can continue their social-emotional development while at home. Below is a list of activities for parents to consider to ensure teen social-emotional development, through service-learning at home.


What is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Social-emotional learning encompasses self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, relationship skills, and social awareness. Sara Potler LaHayne, CEO of Move This World, recently published a list of social-emotional tips for parents to consider when managing their child’s day and emotions. Another great way to continue social-emotional learning is through acts of service to family members, friends, neighbors, and the broader community. Although many typical service-learning activities are restricted for social distancing, we’ve compiled a list of options that teens can participate in at home below.


Keep a Gratitude Journal or Write Gratitude Notes

Gratitude practices have actually been found to have incredible benefits for an individual’s mental and even physical health. Teens can write daily gratitude lists in a personal journal, or they can extend their gratitude toward friends, family, teachers, mentors, and neighbors through email, text, social media or handwritten notes. 

Reflection: Ask students what or who they are grateful for, and how they feel after journaling or writing notes to their supporters.


Write Letters to Loved Ones or Send Art to Loved Ones (and Strangers)

Thus far, mail is still approved to be sent during the Covid- 19 outbreak. Writing letters and creating decorative cards can be a fun and artistic way to stay in touch with friends and family. There are also organizations like Letters of Love that coordinate sending decorative letters to elderly people in nursing homes, who can no longer have direct contact with their family members. 

Reflection: Ask students who they are sending letters to, why they chose that person, how they think it will make the other person feel,  and how they feel after sending the letter.


Use Social Media to Spread Positivity and Support

Social media can be incredibly beneficial as a tool to stay connected with loved ones that teens cannot be with face-to-face. Brainstorm with your teen on ways to spread positive messages and encouragement through social media channels. Examples include sharing messages of gratitude and asking others to pay it forward, sharing positive quotes, and sharing stories of things that people are doing to support one another within their community.

Reflection: Ask students what type of content they are consuming and generating on social media, and how they think they can use social media to generate positivity and encouragement during this time that is difficult for many people. If they choose to start sharing content like positive notes and news, ask them how it makes them feel.


Gather Items for Donation

Learning to Give suggests taking an opportunity to clean the house and gather unused items to create a donation pile. Many organizations are still accepting donations for families in need, so connect with your local agencies to see if they are open and if they have wish-lists for specific categories of goods.

Reflection: Ask teens how it felt to clean their space and create a donation bin for other people in need. Ask them to think about how it might make the recipients feel.


Seek a Digital Volunteer Role

Many local and even national nonprofit organizations rely on volunteer support for social media management, email campaigns to get the word out about their organization, and more. If a teen already supports an organization with in-person volunteering, they can check out the organization’s website to see what type of assistance they are looking for during this time. If a teen is looking to start volunteering for a new organization, and Points of Light are great places to search for virtual volunteering opportunities.

Reflection: Ask students why they are volunteering for the cause they have chosen to support. After they complete their service, ask them how they think it impacted the organization and the people they serve, in addition to how doing the work made the students feel.


At Ascend, we have created a digital program called Challenge Accepted! that students can use to ensure their academic and social-emotional learning and development continues at home. Many of the activities we have listed above are challenges for students to complete through our platform. Completing challenges earns students points, which makes them eligible to win college scholarships. To learn more, parents and teachers can visit this page.


About Ascend

Ascend is a student empowerment platform that enables schools and mentoring organizations to cultivate, track, and measure student goals and achievement. Ascend is proud to be a minority and woman-owned business and supports organizations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, and beyond.