School reopening: How to ease children's anxiety and help them re-adjust

Updated on Feb 09, 2022 07:05 PM IST

As much as children are looking forward to attending physical classes which is crucial for their overall development, they are likely to take their own time to re-adjust in school atmosphere, says expert.

While children are looking forward to interacting with their peers and playing in the school playground, things may not be the same as before.
While children are looking forward to interacting with their peers and playing in the school playground, things may not be the same as before.

As schools and colleges across the country are gradually re-opening amid receding third wave of Covid-19, children no wonder are excited about meeting their friends and teachers after a significant gap of two years. As much as they are looking forward to attending physical classes which is crucial for their overall development too, they are likely to take their own time to re-adjust in school atmosphere and experts say some are at risk of developing anxiety and mental health issues.

"It’s heart-warming that we are now talking about sending children back to schools. We must keep in mind though that after two years of online classes, even coming back to school is a transition that children may take time adjusting to," says Dr Samir Parikh, Director-Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.

"More than even academics, it’s the social element of schools that plays a crucial role in the development of children. Co-curricular activities, sports and the time children spend with their friends in school form the foundation of their socio-emotional development," he adds.

ALSO READ: Pandemic did not put a lot of children out of school, but education suffered

While children are looking forward to interacting with their peers and playing in the school playground, things may not be the same as before considering they will now have to follow social distancing norms which would include not sharing seats and tiffins as before. While schools may be looking to bridge the academic gap and go aggressive with studies, experts suggest they should take it slow till the children re-adjust to schools in new settings.

"Rather than diving into academics immediately, it would be important to spend the first week to integrate children back into the school environment. The focus should be more towards group activities, extra-curriculars and sports, to help children re-connect with their peers and rebuild their sense of safety at school. Fun quizzes rather than conventional tests to start with may also help children gradually ease into coping with their studies and taking regular examinations," says Dr Parikh.

Handling anxiety issues

The past two years have not been easy for kids. Pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health as in absence of outdoor activities, they took solace in their screens. They not only missed their friends and the security of pre-pandemic life, some of them also lost a family member that made things even tougher for them.

"We must be cognizant that children have experienced a difficult two years – many have grappled with the loss of family members, experienced financial difficulties in the family or struggled with coping with academics in the digital space. In having open discussions about these experiences through group sessions, teachers can facilitate a healthy peer to peer support system amongst students," says the renowned psychiatrist.

"Lastly, we must remember that the pandemic is not yet over. Even as children come back to schools, it’s natural that some students, as well as families, to experience anxiety regarding Covid-19. It’s important that schools encourage covid appropriate behaviours at all times, and that teachers and school authorities become the role models in ensuring such caution," he concludes.

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