EMPOWER- A Social-Emotional Curriculum for Girls in the 21st Century

As adolescents transition from childhood into puberty, social emotional difficulties begin to impact their functioning in many ways. When young individuals lack the appropriate coping and self-reliance skills, they are less likely to experience positive outcomes in the face of adversity (Prince-Embury & Saklofske, 2014). Research suggests that mental health illnesses begin to arise around this time and that females are impacted at a higher rate (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2002 in Prince-Embury & Saklofske, 2014) (Leventhal et al., 2015). Additionally, societal norms and media affect mental health and self-perception, which can have lasting effects on young girls and their self-esteem (Dohnt & Tiggemann, 2006). This project is intended to address the many factors that affect social emotional functioning for young girls who are nearing the period of adolescence. This curriculum is meant to act as a therapeutic experience that connects students to their school and staff in a positive way while providing opportunities to learn and practice beneficial life skills. By introducing these skills at an early age, students are able to become familiar with their function and will be better equipped to use them in the future. This is especially true when faced in difficult situations as they navigate through the transitional adolescent period of development. Peer-reviewed research was analyzed via a thorough literature review which supported the creation of the curriculum. The research suggested that the development of numerous social-emotional competencies is important in guiding adolescents towards positive and effective means of functioning. Certain populations of youth are at higher risk for developing maladaptive social-emotional skills, and although educators and support staff will not always be able to help students in navigating the social-emotional challenges of puberty, they can be preventive in their approach by providing students the tools they need to persevere through tough times and grow into competent adults. Therefore, this curriculum is geared towards young students as a way to be preventive and to serve as a tier one intervention that can benefit all young girls, regardless of their risk factor status. It is hopeful that this curriculum can be used in a way that benefits young girls and fosters connectedness to school, staff, and peers, builds important life skills, and positively impacts self-esteem.