Over the course of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions, people’s lives were transformed like never before. This also led to a sudden normalization and rise of discussions around mental health across the globe. Within the global student population, over 91% were adversely wedged by the pandemic, and in India about 32 crore students and their education was impacted. As we still continue to fight the COVID- 19 pandemic even after 10 months now, it is a given fact that many individuals, especially students could be affected physically, psychologically, financially, academically and emotionally. Young adults as well as children have become highly vulnerable since their daily routine of studies, going to school and tuitions, meeting friends and teachers, socializing and playing, participating in sports and extra-curricular activities have been completely compromised this year.
It is thus crucial to create an action plan in order to safeguard the mental health and ensure mental wellbeing of students. To this extent, teachers and parents must take into consideration the following things:
- Stage of development of the student: The developmental stage and the age of the student can help in determining their resilience and coping mechanisms. Students of different age groups face diverse problems which can have an impact and affect them differently. For instance, a pre-primary school child may be impacted due to the lack of physical activity such as playing and engaging in outdoor sports or games. On the contrary, a high school student might be in a persistent state of anxiety regarding future prospects and how to be able to financially support oneself and the family going forward.
- Creating a positive environment at home: Unfortunately, some students might be a part of distressed or abusive homes where they experience negative energies floating through the house. Dodging such a scenario for a couple of hours to their safe haven in the form of a school or tuition is no longer a possibility. Some kids might also be struggling to talk privately to their peers, teachers or counsellors about the difficulties they face.
- New form of education in 2020 – learning and assessments: Virtual schooling might not be comfortable for every student. Some of the student have shown multiple signs of loss of motivation, burnout, lack of interest and concentration and are anxious about their academic performance. Many students have also displayed signs of anxiety and depression with their sleeping and food consumption patterns being profoundly compromised and disrupted.
Helping the students to shine through these times and safeguarding students’ mental health is an important task at hand!
Here are some of the predominant spaces that could serve as an agenda for stakeholders including educators, parents, and well-wishers to focus on while implementing precautionary measures for mental health matters among students and children.
Create a routine and maintain a schedule!
As students are continuing to learn from home via virtual classes, the monotony of the situation and unpredictability of the forthcoming year could cause demoralization among them and they might scuffle to accomplish their tasks. In order to evade the feeling of low self-esteem, anxiety and discomfort, students must start following daily routine to stay focused and on track. They can also create a weekly schedule so ambiguity can be avoided and concentration can be maintained.
Limit the media time
Overconsumption of information and data can lead to irrelevant thoughts and may provoke negative feelings of doubt, apprehension and panic. These feelings could be detrimental to their mental wellbeing. By consuming and broadcasting news in restraint and striking a balance between real and reel, students will be able to manage themselves and their thoughts better. Encouraging them to read books is a good option which can impart good thoughts in their mind while keeping them away from irrelevant news.
Indulge in physical activities
It is rightly said that physical and mental health are synonymous. If the students are not able to move out of the house, they can engage in physical activities at home by doing yoga or cardio sessions. There must be a defined sleeping and eating pattern that the students must adhere to and also engage in regular physical activity, extra-curricular activity, socialization and board games. Integrating mindfulness into the daily routine of children can be extremely advantageous.
Categorize role models
Most of the times, children and young adults take their cues on how to respond, react, behave or even feel basis their observations and interpretations of grownups around them. The best form of preparing students with how to maintain their mental wellbeing is by signifying how an adult does enough things to look after themselves and their loved ones. For instance, the child will be more likely to follow suit if the grownups at home follow a certain routine, take time out to exercise, eat healthy, connect with others and openly discuss matters with a counsellor.
Have a fun-filled weekend
Parents must spend enough and more time with their children especially during the weekends. They must create a plan to ensure that they are making the children happy and connecting with them while understanding their emotions and checking on their concerns. Creating a happy vibe will help students ease out their stress and help them maintain a good emotional balance.
Building a positive environment for sharing feelings
Whether taking virtual lectures or at home, providing students with harmless and secure spaces to vent and showcase their emotions and fears are truly important. Parents must be mindful about not jumping to conclusions or into advising, but hear the child out by being good listeners to their children’s plights. Schools must also create sessions for students by allowing them to connect with their peers as they have been deprived of that and listening to their anxieties and fears.
By following these things, we can try to help the students maintain their emotional and mental health during the most challenging times as this. Additionally, generating mindfulness among the students about mental health and the services that are accessible to them by experts is of highest significance. At the end of the day, it is a collective responsibility of all the stakeholders including educators and parents to ensure that students’ mental health is well maintained.
Senior School Counselor
Aditya Birla World Academy