The Covid-19 pandemic has induced a certain anxiety among us all. Even as we try to go about our lives, after reassuring ourselves that by adopting physical distancing, wearing a mask and getting inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine, we shall survive and thrive, we live with a fear.
This is the fear of the unknown. Undeniably, the palpable feeling of uncertain times in near future and specter of a disoriented lifestyle hounds us.
If we, being adults, who are presumably capable of handling stress and the uncertainties of life in a responsible way, can experience dark thoughts, just take a moment to think about what the kids must be going through in these times of crisis.
A school-going kid who has perhaps not visited their school since the first lockdown, may be battling several demons and anxieties which remain unaddressed and unattended. Should we leave our kids this way? Do they not need to be counseled to bring their lives back on track?
Should they be made comfortable with the online teaching scenario for all times to come? Should we continue to tell them that the world and life is cruel and they must accordingly gear up for the worst? Is this the right approach to address the anxiety of school-going kids?
More importantly, should we presume that if kids are not complaining about not going to school, for instance, it’s alright and that they will cope on their own once the schools resume in full steam.
I believe that we as adults, by and large, prefer to live in a make-believe world of our own. Kids also dream of castles and chocolate goodies, but they are tender beings with sensitive souls. They carry several emotions in a bundle within their hearts and it is better if we untie the knots of their emotions in a systematic manner.
First of all, a situation such as the pandemic was challenging to our overall mental well-being, like any other catastrophe. If mental health counseling could be given to Tsunami victims, it should be mandatory for every child who is coming back to school after an extended lockdown and the resulting isolation from their peers.
The process of re-integration of children to campus life should be a graded process, attuned to the emotional and psychological well-being of children. At least one week should be entirely devoted to the task of counseling the children and making them feel comfortable with academics.
In this exercise, the assistance of professional counselors and trainers could be taken by empaneling them. Medical students specializing in mental health counseling can also be roped in to assist schools.
According to UNICEF, during lockdown, children experienced tremendous anxiety. They need help with calming their anxiety and worries. Trapped feelings may need to be let out in some cases. The situation may be more devastating in cases where a child was already struggling to cope, due to a history of mental illness.
Therefore, the issue of the mental health of children should not be brushed under the carpet. School administrations and authorities must take initiatives to dispel the atmosphere of fear, anxiety and isolation.
Being the harbingers of hope and positivity in our society, schools must lead the way and show us the light. As Dorothy Thompson has observed, “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”