There has been a lot of reporting on the arrangements that are being made to ensure children continue to receive their academic education whilst schools are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, schools also have an important role to play in managing the emotional wellbeing of their pupils, not just their learning. I have collaborated with an independent school in London to explore this in further detail.
Many factors may contribute to a young person’s struggle to deal with the current situation. Pastoral care teams within schools will have to work hard to help navigate their pupils through this crisis, especially schools which not only provide an academic education but also a temporary home for its pupils, ie those offering boarding facilities. Parents should also try their best to help too, by remaining a positive and optimistic influence as much as possible. Here are some of the things that might be having an emotional impact on your child, that you look out for and try to alleviate where possible:
Change in Routine
For some children, the change in routine can feel threatening, so steps should be taken to ensure a routine – albeit a different one – is put in place. Wherever possible this should follow that of the traditional school day.
For certain year groups, 2020 has represented a milestone year when pupils would have the opportunity to sit public exams that will play a pivotal role in shaping their future. As a result, the last two years have been geared towards fulfilling personal academic potential, studying hard with a specific goal in sight. The announcement that all exams were to be cancelled is likely to have triggered a flurry of emotions as pupils come to terms with the news, and what it represents to them. Try and help distract your child as much as possible and reassure them that other measures will be taken to ensure this does not affect their educational journey.
Whilst there may be some pupils who naturally thrive in a classroom setting – whether it is a physical or virtual place of learning – others who may already struggle with interacting within a group may find adjustment to the new distance learning world extremely hard. For these pupils, there is a risk of further isolation from their peers and a deeper feeling of loneliness.
Too Much Screen Time
There is, of course, a danger during this period of remote learning that children will disguise inappropriate online activities as ‘doing their schoolwork’. Boredom may make some children over-reliant on the internet and they may spend too long gazing at a computer screen, become involved with excessive gaming or even joining unsuitable forums.
How Can Parents Help?
The following are four top tips for parents to help them protect their child’s well-being while the UK continues to operate restrictive practices to fight the spread of Covid-19.
- Children will take their cue from adults: our reaction to these extraordinary events will determine theirs. Be cheerful: “The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness” (Montaigne)
- Keep to routines
- Maintain variety: ensure that weekends are different from weekdays
- Communicate the importance of adhering to the following values during these difficult times: kindness, empathy, imagination, courage and resilience