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Educators Learn How To Help Teens, Tweens With Their Emotions

Elizabeth Dexter-Mazza recently taught local teachers and psychologists how to deal with the emotions of teens and tweens.
Elizabeth Dexter-Mazza recently taught local teachers and psychologists how to deal with the emotions of teens and tweens. Photo Credit: Contributed photo

YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- Teachers and psychologists from across the region, and as far away as Spain came to Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown recently to learn how to teach emotion regulation and problem solving skills to help middle and high school students develop better coping strategies and decision-making abilities.

The three-day training session led by James Mazza, a professor in the school psychology program at the University of Washington-Seattle, and Elizabeth Dexter-Mazza, a licensed psychologist, was aimed at teaching school psychologists, school social workers, school counselors, special education, and general education teachers a specific Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum that focuses on emotion regulation.

The program is intended to help adolescents who may experience emotional distress due to relationship issues, drugs and alcohol, self-harming behavior, academic pressures, bullying behavior, identity issues (self, sexual orientation), or abuse that impacts students reaching their full educational ability.

Dexter-Mazza modeled for attendees a strategy called dialectical thinking that allows students to recognize two differing points of view, and by doing so reduces the likelihood of getting stuck only seeing one point of view. She also explained how parents and teachers can sometimes unintentionally reinforce negative behaviors in their children and students.

Kerry Elting, a special education teacher at Carmel High School, said she planned to use the skills she learned at the workshop to help her students learn how to de-escalate emotional situations.

Patrick McAuliffe, a psychologist at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, said the training was “a really comprehensive, clear model for delivery of dialectical behavior therapy skills in classrooms. It is clear enough that people who are not clinicians can use it.”

David Xavier, a special education teacher in Croton Harmon, said the first skill he planned to use in his work was “teaching students to use mindfulness to calm down so they can solve problems.”

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