Youth Programs Are Important Spaces for Emotional Learning


  • Reed W. Larson University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Natalie Rusk Massachusetts Institute of Technology



emotional learning, youth programs, staff practices


Emotional skills are now widely recognized to be essential skills for young people to survive and thrive across all aspects of their lives. Teens become able to develop powerful new skills for understanding and managing their emotions. They also are able to learn skills for using the valuable functions of emotions. But this learning isn’t automatic; it depends on experience. In this commentary, we highlight key elements of youth programs that make them important contexts for youth’s active engagement in emotional learning. We present examples from research on how program staff facilitate youth development of skills to manage and use emotions. We conclude with suggestions on practices and policies that support emotional learning.


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