Back to School- Joy and Anxiety

The whole world today is at war with COVID-19. The unwanted & unprecedented pandemic has thrashed every sector in the world & education is no exception. Children of all ages, all communities, all countries, all strata are equally affected. It is not just the health crisis but students have been impacted in many ways. For them, it is a loss of structure, loss of attending school, having fun with teachers & friends, playing pranks on friends, sharing lunch, laughing & giggling in corridors. They are missing on dance classes, sports, clubs, class parties, picnics, movies, theatres, games & Stage activities etc. The pandemic has affected their social, physical, emotional well-being & caused many changes in their habits, behavior & routines.

Even if schools re-open, neither the schools nor the children will be the same. The behavior of the children will not be the same as before. New normal will require schools to disinfect classrooms & campuses, temperature checks of students & staff every day before entering the schools. Students will be attending classes with varied sitting arrangements, rotations to maintain social distancing. Wearing of masks & frequent handwashing will be the new normal. 

Varied break timings will be followed to avoid crowding. Strict No-No to sharing of lunches, morning assemblies, crowded buses & sharing of equipment or enjoying the swimming activity. Cross class-mingling will be avoided. Extra vigilance will be required by teachers, management & support staff. Priorities of schools & parents will not just be academics but more important will be the emotional & social health of children. Life-skills, value education, etc.

Pandemic has increased anxieties, fear, anger & sadness in children. Collective efforts will be required from school & parents for the overall well-being of children, to make them comfortable, safe & help them to adapt to new normal. Getting children back to school will not be easy for schools, parents & society. Online classes too have posed many challenges though it was an option to continue learning & keeping children safe.

Every child is unique. Some children by temperament are more anxious and will require special attention & support from the school Counselor & other school staff. Many students have been forced to drop out of school due to many reasons associated with the pandemic like the migration of labor to their hometowns. Many students have faced monetary poverty at home due to the business or job loss of their parents. Not only financial loss, but few children have also seen the loss of their family members during a pandemic. Teachers will require extra sensitivity, empathy & care to recognize the physical symptoms & behavior changes in the students & to help them cope up with the reality. Very young children have been at home with their parents for a long time & may show some separation anxiety symptoms & take time to settle.

Time has been equally challenging for parents & that too has taken a toll on students. Some parents have lost their jobs & business, some have suffered salary cuts & extra working hours. In the absence of child care support, they have been juggling to bring work-life balance along with child care.

Pandemic has reminded us all to be grateful for everything we have. It has reminded us to respect nature, be compassionate & caring. We have learned the value of family, health & hygiene & learned  

To accept change & adapt.

Life is a lesson; we learn every day and we will continue learning every day.

Meenu Bhargava
Freelance trainer & Counselling Psychologist