Throughout history, people have strived to ensure that future generations would be happier and better off than they were. And our world today is safer, healthier, better educated, and more positive and productive than ever before.
Yet more than a third of Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2015) claim to be lonely. Experts call it an epidemic and identify these young people as the loneliest population in history. Loneliness can be a result of trauma and is associated with anxiety, depression, health issues, and is one more reason teens drop out of school.
Much of the blame for loneliness is put on social media – teens may have hundreds of “friends,” but no meaningful friendships. Some students face other life challenges that make them feel isolated, awkward and embarrassed by their home life. Learn4Life, a network of high schools that helps at-risk students earn a diploma and receive job skills training, has developed a program tailored to the needs of this generation. Many of its students face situations like teen pregnancy, homelessness, bullying, poverty and learning disabilities which add to students’ difficulty in developing close friendships.
Learn4Life is finding that a trauma-informed (TI) approach to learning is showing amazing results. TI education is personalized, and students meet one-to-one with teachers, mentors and counselors. They soon learn there is a team of people who care about them and who they can trust.
“An essential component is teaching kids coping skills and anger management so they develop resiliency that will help them handle ups and downs throughout their life,” said Craig Beswick, a TI educator at Learn4Life. “We include classes in basic social skills, where they learn to express themselves and listen to others – plus instruction in meditation, yoga and other practices of self-awareness. Students respond positively and soon start developing friendships with other students.”
Through partnerships with community organizations, Learn4Life works to eliminate many of the challenges and distractions in the students’ lives…such as assisting them with food, transportation and childcare or providing extra counseling. “Not only are we helping our students earn a diploma, but we’re transforming them into happy individuals who have become comfortable in their own skin and confident to build meaningful relationships with adults and fellow students,” he added.