Vahbiz Kerawalla, Student Counselor, Student Wellbeing Centre, Jasudben M. L. School.
For years we bombarded them by saying ‘the internet is a dark place, nothing good comes out of it, your phone is corrupting your mind’ then we encourage them to seek this medium for learning.
Most children to escape their feelings of loneliness, sadness, worries, helplessness started to spend an increased amount of time surfing the internet, social media, playing video games, watching television, music, etc. The parents’ attempt to control screen time was viewed as infringing their personal space which made them angry and frustrated.
When we have an internal struggle or an inability to cope with the situations we face, we are more likely to lash out, be aggressive, and are going to react instead of respond. That’s exactly what some of the children are experiencing. It’s important to understand that when we are not comfortable with change we resist; adults and children.
We have not spent enough time preparing for the transition to online schooling especially for the ones who could not afford it and are missing out on their basic right to education. The children found it difficult to wake up on time, being organized for school, completing of classwork. They didn’t have the excitement of sitting with friends, some even found it difficult to relate to the teachers through a screen, they were kept busy and overburdened and their motivation and attention towards academics further reduced and they drifted to the fun side which was one click away.
We picked up on them being angry, making rude comments, not complying with instructions, ganging up on parents and teachers, finding faults and making remarks towards teachers, not participating in online school but we see it as indiscipline or an act of revolt towards us.
It’s important to see their behavior as something that is bothering them below the surface of their words/actions; as we failed to create a safe space for them to come and tell us ‘you know I don’t like this very much; this is difficult for me’. Being there to hear them and saying okay can we try and make this work is a start. Children do want to learn they just don’t want to feel that it’s forced on them. Avoid smothering them with instructions and let them have an equal say in managing their time as they are going to be fighting you head-on for autonomy and independence. Help them create a schedule to balance the internet and learning, sufficient breaks to avoid dependency on the internet, prioritize sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
‘Children learn more from our actions than our advice’. We need to be aware this is affecting all our mental health. These times are going to make them resilient if they can manage their own emotions, perceptions, and mental health.
Our school has kept its doors open for parents, children, teachers who have reached out to the counseling team from the beginning of lockdown. We have been conducting sessions for all grades in our school to help them at this time.
The need of the hour is to be a sounding board for them to feel accepted and understood for every worry. We have to be careful about our words and actions towards them which could leave an inflicting wound larger than the one caused by the pandemic.