Steps to Ensure Children Mental Issues in Classrooms

5 Steps to ensure children don’t experience loneliness, anxiety, anger, or grief in classrooms after COVID

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Children mental health

Don’t you think children are supposed to be innocent, wise, fun-loving, and happy souls? Why are we then talking about terms like loneliness, anger, anxiety, and grief? What have these to do with children? Mental health during COVID-19 is one main factor revolving around the well-being of children these days. And yes, post covid there has been a marked increase in mental health issues in children.

Mental health during COVID-19 and reasons for mental health issues

  1. Fear of the unknown – new school building, new friends, new teachers, a changing environment, back to school after a long gap, transition to physical classrooms, concerns about studies, workload, exams, etc. can cause anxiety, stress, anger, and loneliness issues.
  2. Covid-related concerns – Covid protocols in school, new norms to follow, getting vaccinated, and social distancing can cause mental health issues.
  3. Concerns about friends, teachers, and bullies in the upcoming school year post covid – Will they have the same friends or new ones, will they get bullied, etc. causes fear and anxiety.
  4. Appearance-related concernsChanges in their physical appearance, wearing spectacles and masks, and having acne causes fear and anxiety.
  5. Conflicts at home and shouting at children – These can make children develop withdrawal syndrome and loneliness issues which they will carry to school too.
  6. Bereavement at home – COVID has caused untimely and unexpected deaths everywhere. Children of different age groups respond to this situation differently. Overall they develop fear and loneliness issues.

Mental health during COVID-19 and teachers’ role

Transitioning back to classrooms and setting everything back to normal is absolutely a herculean task for everyone at school, especially teachers. Perhaps teachers are the first trusted people children might have to encounter outside the home since COVID and so it is you (teachers) who have to spot if something is wrong and ensure children don’t experience any mental health issues like anger, grief, etc in classrooms.

  1. Emotional check-ins – Conducting routine emotional check-ins with students is beneficial in identifying the mental status of children. Emotional check-ins are asking children “how they are” directly or indirectly. Indirect ways may ask a question like “What color do they feel today?” The feelings and ideas they represent in the answer can be analyzed to know their mental health.
  2. Identify signs and symptoms of mental health issues like anger, fear, grief, etc. Examples of these signs include tiredness, changes in eating habits, dry mouth, shaking, poor concentration, etc. Note, some may be related to physical health issues too.

Read More: 5 behaviour strategies to help school staff nurture wellbeing

Mental health during COVID-19 and 5 Steps to ensure children don’t experience loneliness, anxiety, anger, or grief in classrooms after COVID

The transition back to school and in-person classroom learning after a long school closure due to COVID-19 should be handled with the utmost care by school personnel and teachers. They need to support children in getting back to a routine and managing mental health issues that developed during COVID-19. 

  1. Listen to children’s concerns – Teachers need to listen to students’ concerns and demonstrate understanding as well as empathy. Have one-to-one conversations with students to reconnect and discuss any concerns that might have arisen during school closure. On identifying any concerns shared, follow all norms and systems to ensure the safety of children.
  2. Check how children are doingRegular emotional check-ins will give an insight into the mental status of students. Based on the readings and observations, analyze and provide support and suitable corrective measures.
  3. Provide accurate information about COVID-19 –  Children are always curious. They want factual information. Address all doubts and queries and misconceptions regarding COVID by using age-appropriate resources based on scientific evidence. Inform them about why safety protocols are to be followed at school and their importance.
  4. Take suggestions from children on how to create a safe, comfortable and welcoming classroom – This step will make children feel included in the classroom and thus help build up their confidence. Children will get to work in small groups and so in the process will develop positive interactions and relationships with peers. Also, encouraging play and sports promote peer interactions.
  5. Observe any signs of child behaviour that interfere with learning and play – Any significant student’s behaviour or struggle in learning or play and if this persists over time, provide suitable support and guidance. Sometimes experts and specialists, help and support may prove beneficial.

Mental health during COVID-19  and Fun activities in the classroom to cope with anxiety, stress, anger, fear loneliness, and grief

  • Belly breathingWhen stressed, breathing becomes very shallow. Breathing happens in the chest and then deep from the abdomen. So, belly breathing helps to calm down and also draws oxygen deep into the lungs and thus feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
  • My special space – The world around might be overwhelming sometimes for children. Help your students feel stress-free by imagining being in a calm place. Tell a story and ask children to listen and follow the story in mind and imagine being in the story.
  • Letter writing – During the pandemic seeing a friend and other family members in person had become a distant dream to all including children. Loneliness, stress anxiety, etc will have crept in. Thus, an activity in which the children write a letter can help celebrate the relationship and communicate with those friends or family even if they are not physically present.

Mental health during COVID-19: A note to parents

Parents play a pivotal role in a child’s life. During the COVID period and post it, navigating children into learning, discipline, and back to school with nil or minimum mental health issues is a parent’s responsibility.

The key is to just BE WITH THEM. Support them, understand their needs, listen to their concerns and fix them. Create a happy, healthy, and positive atmosphere at home as most of a child’s time is spent at home. 

But, sometimes just understanding what they are experiencing is not enough to help children get through a challenge. Rather seek the help of a professional to deal with any mental or physical health issues identified. 

Mental health during COVID-19: A final check

If mental health issues like anxiety, anger, stress, etc remain untreated, it can put children at risk of poor school performance, difficulty in socialization, problems in maintaining friendships, and even depression. And as children grow older, untreated mental health issues can even lead to substance abuse. A stitch in time saves nine. Help your children overcome mental health issues developed during or post-COVID-19.

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