Almost every school today strives to provide a safe space for children and promises to give importance to a holistic education and development of the child. Holistic education and development is a relatively new movement in education that seeks to engage all aspects of a learner and focuses on their intellectual, mental, physical, emotional and social abilities.
However, in the last 12 years of my school life and according to the experiences of many other children, I’ve realised that while schools do teach us how to calculate the area of a trapezium, they don’t really teach us how to… umm, life! Don’t get me wrong, all the science, social science and math taught to us is extremely important in order to have a basic understanding of how the world operates and reason what happens around us.
However, I feel that this education is incomplete. While the child learns how to make sense of the happenings around the world, they struggle to make sense of their emotions. Schools teach the most advanced formulae and concepts, but don’t really teach that rapid increase in heartbeat, and excessive sweating and shaking before an exam aren’t just fear stemming from a lack of preparation. They are signs of a panic attack.
Adolescence is an age when many children go through identity crises, and face complexes and struggles. Nobody really openly talks to them about their problems, and even if they do, they end up dismissing them. Thus, children end up developing the attitude that “nobody really understands them and what they’re going through.” As a result of this, they might show faulty behaviour, give in to peer pressure in order to feel “accepted”, and be ready to go to extremes to ensure that their feeling of belongingness is met (like engaging in bullying someone or trying psychedelics or harmful substances just so that they can be a part of a group).
Introducing the subject of psychology might help children have a greater understanding of their emotions and make them more mindful of their actions. Actions and words have consequences on others and our own selves. Therefore, choosing them wisely is very important. Studying this might also help children have a healthier relationship with their peers and a positive influence on their self esteem and worth. I feel that adding this subject to the school curriculum will only add to the children’s personality.
It may help children understand what faulty behaviour is; that emotions (even the unpleasant ones) are meant to be felt and are nothing to be ashamed of; that failure shouldn’t be directly associated with the self-worth of a person; and that scoring a 100/100 or winning that match or competition doesn’t define their potential in any way.
I say all this because there’s a remarkable difference that I noticed in me after studying psychology. For me, it’s not just a subject, but an essential manual to understand simple yet complex emotions. By studying this subject, I’ve learnt about concepts such as empathy, and the difference between positive stress (eustress) and negative stress (distress), which were completely alien to me before. I’ve learnt that every emotion that a person feels is valid even though it might make no sense to others. Feelings can’t be simply categorised into black or white, or yes or no.
I’ve realised that anxiety and depression are more common among school children than we imagine, and because of lack of awareness, this problem gets masked with lighter words like stress, laziness and carelessness. Learning a few concepts in psychology has made me realise the “need” to be kind to others and also to myself. In this constant hustle and the need to do everything perfectly, we have forgotten what truly matters. It’s time to stop pushing children to be “the best” at something, and start motivating them to be the best version of themselves.