Children returning to school need empathy & emotional support: Experts
September 15, 2021
– Reshma Ravishanker
Children returning to schools after almost 16 months have brought along with them a baggage of socio-emotional challenges that calls for parents and teachers to be empathetic, say experts. Returning to school after 16 months of pandemic-induced closure of education institutions, forced home confinement and online learning, children are confronted with mixed feelings with many experiencing anxiety and stress about resuming in-person classes.
In Karnataka, in-person classes have commenced for students in class VI and above in districts with a Covid-19 positivity rate of less than 2 percent.
Dr Satish Ramaiah, psychiatrist, People Tree Hospitals said, “We have visits from apprehensive and anxious parents. Many adolescents are refusing to return to school. They are used to the comfort of online learning from their homes. Self-isolation results in children suffering attention and concentration deficits. All these days, in online classes, children could switch off the video and take a break. When in class, that is not possible. Some children have got used to an erratic lifestyle. For instance, they could wake up just five minutes before classes if online. Now the worry of getting back is giving them anticipatory anxiety. Children particularly low on self esteem and confidence find it challenging to be in class again because they fear competition.” He recommends that parents and teachers be compassionate, recognise that this situation is nothing like the usual and be empathetic.
Nagasimha G Rao, a child rights activist from Child Rights Trust has written a letter to the minister for primary and secondary education, B C Nagesh asking him to get children to first adjust to school routine instead of pushing them head on into academic learning.
“Children need compassion now. Do not start full-fledged classes for the first few weeks. They are coming back to campus after a long break. Peer interaction might seem new to them. The introverted children might have turned more reserved. There is a need to get them accustomed back to school again,” he said.
Adolescent children, in particular, need extra care, he added. “This is a group of children who have undergone several changes physically and psychologically. Children might not come to terms with the fact that some of their peers might have either gained or shed weight, have had changes in the family, lost someone to Covid or have attained puberty. This is a crucial period when children must have access to counsellors,” said Nagasimha.
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