“No, I don’t want to attend online classes today.”
“Momma, I don’t enjoy dancing all alone in front of the camera..”
“This class is so boring; I want to log out.”
Our children’s mental health has been vastly affected during this pandemic, where many children are showing behavioral changes. Home quarantine and social distancing have made them feel caged along with a deluge of information about the monstrous virus that has scared them.
As a result, our children are showing signs of anger, anxiety, meltdowns, temper tantrums, low appetite, distractions, and also withdrawal symptoms.
Let us understand the reason behind these changes.
- The online classes in the first half of the day, followed by homework and other courses, seem monotonous as they have to sit at one place in front of the screen and can’t interact with their friends and teachers.
- Their exposure to non-structured screen time has increased to the extent that it has hampered their schedule, increased their sedentary lifestyle, and affected their power of reason.
- Since there is a lot of uncertainty about the pandemic, school reopening, and life getting back to normal, adults are unable to give satisfactory answers to their children now, which in turn is frustrating them more.
- Children are impatient; they work on instant gratification, hence the current situation is adding to their stress. Their main worry is, “How much more?”
- While the onset of lockdown looked very appealing to both the parents and their children. They were enjoying the family time which they used to miss previously due to their hectic schedule. But with time and increased uncertainty, things got mundane and frustrating. This showed on their behaviour too, with time, parents are also mentally affected by the situation, and they too dismissed their children’s worry.
- Instead of probing and having open-ended discussions, parents started getting anxious and frustrating and sometimes ignored their children. This led to having trust issues.
- While Visual and auditory learning happened during virtual classes, tactile and kinaesthetic was not 100% achieved.
- Technical glitches which are beyond anyone’s control also resulted in stress.
With online classes in full swing, it is now the responsibility of all the educational institutions to provide social and emotional support to their students during these most challenging times because it directly impacts their learning and how they view themselves in and navigate the world. School counselors are now on the frontline to support these children through their emotional, social, mental, and educational journey. The school must enable children to be resilient and adaptable in uncertain times.
Counseling is one of the most common psychological interventions delivered in schools where children can explore, understand, and aim to overcome issues in their lives, causing them difficulty, distress, and confusion.
Why are school counselors essential during these times?
- They can help students navigate thoughts, feelings, and dilemmas that they may not understand.
- Through counseling, psychological intervention can be delivered where children can explore, understand, and overcome current issues that are causing them distress and confusion.
- With exposure to digital media and online classes, school counselors can help students provide information on cyberbullying and social media trolling.
- As we know, different students have a different pace of learning. Hence the role of a counselor becomes all the more important where early intervention is required. They can also provide referrals, recommendations, and education to the child’s parents about mental health concerns.
- Counselors also help parents and learners develop skills to maintain a routine, schedule and how to achieve it.
- They offer children the opportunity to express and explore how they feel and what they’re thinking about the COVID-19 situation.
How can school counselors help in the mental wellbeing of their learners?
- Therapeutic intervention: Young children may not have acquired the skill and understanding their emotions and expressing them; hence a common counseling approach is therapy. They can be,
- Play therapy
- Art therapy
- Music and Drama Therapy
- Use of storytelling and poems
- Open non judgmental communication
As a part of the curriculum, children should be sensitively exposed to a variety of aesthetic experiences — listening to music and appreciating other art forms. They should be helped to develop an affinity with nature and to recognize its myriad and layered manifestations
- Supporting and communicating with Parents: Parents are also struggling and juggling their work life, personal life, and parenting, and it’s essential to make sure parents understand that they need to take care of themselves as well, and not just physically but also mentally. In the absence of a physical teacher, it’s the parents who have taken up to homeschooling their children. Thus, frequent check-in is a very effective way of letting them know that “we are there for you” . Just feeling seen is likely to help them a lot.
- Working in collaboration with the Learning leaders: The online classes are new to our learning leaders too. They are working day and night to ensure a seamless flow of education. Since teachers are directly in touch with the learners, they are always in a better position to understand their class and their students.
- Practicing Mindfulness: Teaching mindfulness paves the way for socio-economical learning in school. And since online classes are very new to our children, it is important to incorporate mindfulness practices into everyday classroom activities. 10-15 mins of mindfulness activities can help students reduce stress and anxiety, increase concentration and engagement, sleep better, improve social skills, and develop problem-solving skills. This will help them cope up with the home quarantine situation they are in. Mindful breathing, daily affirmations, breathing, affirmation, muscle relaxation, yoga, five senses exercise , quiet time, guided meditation, etc. can be practiced and help children be aware of and accept the current situation around them and internalize their experiences.
- Transactional Analysis: Child play therapy from a Transactional Analysis perspective is another counseling approach used by schools to help understand the learner’s state of mind and stimulate their personal growth. The article in this link will help us understand this approach in detail
Counseling can be conducted on a one-to-one basis which provides children with an opportunity to explore their difficulties in a welcoming and supportive environment, and to find their own ways of addressing their issues, or in a group where peers and sometimes parents are also involved.
School counselors aim to guide our learners through a new approach of learning, i.e. virtual learning, prepare them for this uncertain situation, and triage their mental health crises. We have to reflect on and validate their feelings and remind them that it’s okay to feel sad, mad, afraid, or confused.
Above all, children need to feel empowered. Providing kids with a sense that they belong and are competent to make decisions helps them to feel assured and in control. When children feel confident, they also develop a measure of resiliency that helps them navigate an unprecedented, disruptive time like this.
We at Vega Schools have well-trained counselors who always stay abreast of learner’s emotional and mental needs.
Please feel free to contact us for any support.