School reopening fears

Sue Atkins

– Sue Atkins is a UK-based internationally recognised parenting expert, broadcaster, speaker and author of Parenting Made Easy — How to Raise Happy Children (2012)

Schools may reopen soon. My elderly in-laws live with us and we are worried there is a risk that our children may catch the Covid-19 virus in school and infect them. Please advise. -Ramana Mani, Chennai

These are difficult and challenging times and you need to strike a fine balance between keeping elderly family members safe and healthy and allowing children to return
to school for their academic, social and mental wellbeing. Follow government advice and instructions but also weigh up your own family’s health and well-being. Before sending children back to school ensure that the school management is strictly ollowing safety protocols  on social distancing, hand-washing and masks wearing. We all have to learn to accept the ‘new normal’. Discuss your school reopening fears with your in-laws and work together to find a solution that works for everyone.

My eight-year-old twin daughters love being with each other. While they enjoy doing similar activities, I want to encourage them to explore their own interests. Is it wise to request the school to enrol them in different classrooms? – Rima Cherian, Trivandrum

This is a very personal choice. Some twins thrive in different classes, some don’t. It’s important to take into account
the personalities of your children before taking this decision. A survey conducted by King’s College, London found that twins separated at the start of primary school experienced more emotional problems, on average, than twins who studied together. This was especially noticeable in identical twins.

The benefits of keeping twins together in school include:

  • Twins often settle faster into school life if they are kept together.
  •  Twins who don’t want to be separated may suffer emotional stress if they’re forced apart. Forcible separation will make them more dependent on each other.
  • If twins are highly competitive, it makes sense to separate them, but a mild rivalry can provide stimulation for improvement.

The benefits of separating twins include:

  • If one of twin children is noticeably more competent,  either socially or academically than the other, separation
    in school will reduce the risk of comparisons and competition.
  • Twins in the same primary class tend to display disruptive behaviour when they’re together.
  • If your children are too emotionally dependent on each other and are not separated, it may be difficult for them to socialize and interact with peers.

While there are pros and cons, it’s important to ascertain the wishes of your children before making a decision. More importantly, as we are living through a pandemic, your daughters may prefer to be together for emotional support.

My mother, who lived with us for the past year, has returned to her hometown. My six-year-old son is dejected after her departure and is constantly asking us to request his grandmother to return. How do we help him cope with this separation? — Saswati Das, Kolkata

It’s lovely to learn that your son has a warm and loving relationship with his grandmother. You need to encourage
him to stay in contact and connected through phone calls, video chats and letters. Ask your mother also to write to him and keep the communication alive. Your focus should be on building and nurturing their relationship in new and positive ways. This will enable your son to cope with the loss of her physical presence in his life.

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