-Dr Richa Prakash, Principal, Allenhouse Public School, Panki, Kanpur
These are unprecedented times as a sense of anxiety, fear and insecurity looms large because all we took for granted is decimated in the past few months. However learning and teaching is about inter-personal interface and connect. Distance learning in these times has only shown that it takes a lot of effort and honesty to build and maintain the community of parents, their children and the school especially as children are reinterpreting their connect with the world around them in a novel way.
Mahatma Gandhi talked about character building as one of the most crucial pillars of his Nai Talim educational philosophy. Character building is completely dependent on the emotional and mental well being of the child, parental guidance, supervision, and the life skills that the child has absorbed from the eco system of the home, school and society at large.
We need to keep in mind, to have an insight into the mind of our children: their emotional, mental, physical wellness has a direct corollary with the mental and physical well being of their parents.
It is important to stay connected for children. When I say this, I do not only mean the outer world, like friends, parents, relatives, school, teachers, and classmates but most importantly with oneself. Self – awareness is the first step to achieving happiness. Being aware of our strengths and weaknesses can help us feel less threatened. We can build on the opportunities and challenges which stare us in the face. Feeling valued is a universal need for each one of us and more so for our children.
The children need to feel connected to their learning and to the things that they do, feeling confident in who they are becoming. Mindfulness practices can help them overcome anxiety and fear as we teach them to be in the present moment intentionally and without any judgment.
Happiness quotient in children is of utmost importance as it is the driving force for their agility, participation, communication, collaboration and connection with the world outside them. We and our children need to feel connected to our community, connected to the place in the world. However, well being is not a competition. It is important to make children understand the multitude of strengths without ranking and rewards.
We all have an innate need and desire to belong. The need for belongingness is being felt the most by children in these times of physical and social distancing that has impacted us all. Social and Emotional well being of the individuals is the edifice upon which rests the entire health of the social structure of the nation.
Speaking from experience in my interaction with children for over two decades, the basic need of every individual is to feel valued while we cannot relegate other facets like, to lead a comfortable life, and enjoy a healthy diet, safe environment where they can feel secure and loved by their family and friends. These are fundamental requirements for a child to grow into a wholesome human being. Friends, happiness, dreams and love are things of value which cost us nothing.
Resilience on the other hand means the ability to develop capabilities to overcome difficulties independently. Children cannot become resilient if we continuously push them towards it. In order to develop the ability we need to build their capacity to understand the situation so that they become independent in taking the right decision. They need to feel connected to their family, connected to their teacher, to their classroom, to their classmates, so that if something goes wrong they can always rely on us for help and guidance.
Parents can be without doubt the most trusted counselors for their children. Encouraging the child to ask questions brings in greater participation and leads them to opening up with their thoughts. It is important that they know that we see them. While it is equally important for us to listen to them while engaging in affirmations and forms of empowering their mind. You may discuss with them about their sleep patterns, eating balanced meals and physical exercise. This will help you guide them to regulate sleep patterns, maintain a balanced and healthy diet and the benefits of physical exercise like aerobics, yoga, practicing mindfulness etc.
Help the children create a list of tasks they want to achieve every day and maintain boundaries by designating a specific time for studies and recreation like listening to music, watching a movie or reading a book; using this time meaningfully to engage in activities that were not possible to indulge in earlier.
We must try to promote and share stories of strength and commitment with our children in times of distress. Avoid discussing the pandemic unless there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This will help generate positive energy in our children whose prime counselors are the parents at home, who are their first, connect to the world.
Teaching children the importance of building strength, stamina and flexibility is crucial as it is not with intellect we win battles but with alacrity and adaptability. We need to prepare children to face challenges and not shirk from responsibilities. Developing in the children a sense of ownership helps them to take responsibility for their actions. Allow them to make mistakes which do not harm them or others physically or verbally.
Should we prepare them for the exam which lies few months ahead of them or should we prepare them for life, so that they sail across difficult times with ease. This is a pertinent question which each one of us need to ask be it a parent, educator or school management?
The skills we teach them today will help them develop adaptability quotient which is the ability to change or be changed to adapt to the changed circumstances. Never before had we felt the imperative need to adapt, modify and rethink on all that was presumed by us. The pandemic has been an educator for human race and we must internalize the learning from these times in the hope to build a better tomorrow for our children.