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Emotional learning guides students through contentious election

Inside St. Gabriel's Catholic School in Southwest Austin, character building is just as important as academics. (CBS Austin)

Throughout this election season, there's no doubt kids have seen or heard some harsh things on television. For one Austin school focusing on Social Emotional Learning, the last few months have been a real-life example of why they learn to respect and accept different views at a very young age.

Inside St. Gabriel's Catholic School in Southwest Austin, character building is just as important as academics.

"Because this is something that we do all of the time, the children live within this community of respect and openness," says Colleen Lynch, head of the Lower School at St. Gabriel's.

During an election season that's arguably lacked both qualities, second graders are learning important life lessons.

"How to agree and disagree with respect and kindness … and those are important for all of us," says Lynch.

Thursday's lesson was empathy. Students gathered in a circle talking about what empathy means and how they can show empathy toward others.

"When we talk about things like the election or whatever might be going on outside ... this type of learning here is so imbedded that it naturally fits in and we take it as it comes," Lynch says.

She says, parents can facilitate Social Emotional Learning at home starting with open communication.

"Allowing your children to ask questions without any kind of concern about whether it's the right question or the wrong question," Lynch suggests. Adding it's also important to teach kids how to react to views different than their own.

"Being mindful of each family's belief system whether it's their faith or their political beliefs," she says.

Lynch explains, creating a safe space where kids know they can talk about anything they don't understand can lead to more open, honest and heartfelt conversations about what they see and hear in the world around them.

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