Erratic Pandemic Behavior in Children: When Do Schools Recommend Counseling?

A 14-year-old teenager, tired of the buzzing voice of his teacher and the drudgery of online lessons, walked over to a private window, where he started playing online games with his friends, who had him. joined from their respective homes.

Elsewhere, a nine-year-old girl fell in love with one of her classmates when asked to rehearse herself, in the virtual presence of their teacher, much to the dismay of her mother, who was holding her own business meeting in the adjacent room.

Since the start of the pandemic, the numerous blockages have only puzzled children, pushing them to embrace a “new normal” when they were just beginning to make sense of their lives. Among other things, the lack of real physical interactions in schools made children angry and impatient. Online classes and long hours in front of a computer screen worry parents, especially if they have noticed behavioral setbacks in their children.

As such, much of the onus is on schools to solve the problem, providing students with a supportive learning environment. But, have they succeeded?

Treat the child’s discomfort and behavioral issues

Allan Andersen, director of the Bengaluru-based Chaman Bhartiya School, said schools need to recognize that they are not only there to “give an academic education” but also “to enable the child to coping with emotional / physical stress ”. In his school, socio-emotional well-being is part of the curriculum, with each learner assigned a mentor. “Mentor-learner meetings are frequent. The learner shares with the mentor the challenges they face – whether academic, personal or emotional. They work together to solve these challenges. The fact that the child has an adult to turn to is emotionally reassuring. Training mentors to counsel children is part of our “continuing professional development,” he says.

At Narayana e-Techno School in Bangalore, they have “a team of expert child psychologists available to take care of the mental and behavioral health of students.” The school’s deputy principal and math (primary) teacher, Jyothi V, told this outlet: “We have developed internal programs that provide personalized therapies, initiatives to promote a positive school atmosphere, skills to cope with bullying and conflict, healthy relationships with peers and participation in suicide prevention activities, among others.

Likewise, at the Aditya Birla World Academy in Mumbai, there is a mental health program called “Minds Matter” where counselors interact with students on a weekly basis “to provide them with tools to improve their mental well-being.” . “We also have initiatives like ‘Happy Place’, ‘Happiness Week’ and ‘Failure Week’, where our students have a safe space to share their thoughts and feelings,” explains Aachal Jain, coordinator of the school’s pastoral care. .

But despite the availability of all these resources, the fact remains that the children struggled. And this boredom and lack of interest were only “surface problems”.

Recognizing this, Jyothi says, “Several components necessary for the healthy development of children have been severely affected by the pandemic. These include physical activity, interaction with friends, new travel experiences, unstructured recreation ”.

“The lack of these elements in their daily lives has certainly affected their mood regulation and their ability to concentrate and learn during online lessons… Bad behavior is often the result of a skills deficit in children. », She comments.

The role of teachers

Teachers are usually the first to notice that something is wrong with a child. At the Chaman Bhartiya school, there were one or two cases of children acting out. “First, the teacher addresses the child in a gentle tone. They continue to observe the child and if he appears as a model, parental intervention is initiated. Sometimes advice is suggested to get us to the root of the problem, ”says Andersen.

Jain believes that “if the lessons are engaging and planned with intermittent breaks,” there aren’t many behavioral issues. “When teachers notice a change in the child’s behavior or interaction, they should strive to have a one-on-one conversation with the student. If even after repeated interactions the behavior persists, a referral to the counselor can be made.

According to experts, increased symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression are reported in children and adolescents. (Photo: Getty / Thinkstock)

The need to advise and announce it to parents

It is natural for parents to worry when hearing from teachers that their child may act in class and therefore may need specialist intervention. How do you tell them the news?

At Aditya Birla Integrated School (TABIS) in Mumbai, school psychologist Avalanne Dsouza says that students “can be referred to a counselor either by a teacher, school authority, parent, peer or student.” “[It generally happens] when a constant change in behavior or mood is observed. It may suggest behavioral issues or emotional disturbances, ”she explains, adding that breaking the news to parents“ depends entirely on the severity of the problems ”.

“But in most cases, parents are made aware of the problem at hand and the counselor discusses healthy strategies and coping skills they can use at home. If the team finds that the child is at risk for mental health problems, parents are immediately informed and informed of different treatment methods which may include diagnosis, medication and / or therapy, ”he said. she stated at this point of sale.

What counselors think about children’s erratic pandemic behavior

Kanchan Rai, mental and emotional wellness coach and founder of “Let Us Talk” says “being able to tell if your child is going through an emotionally difficult time is not always that easy.” “Early identification and appropriate intervention are imperative to effectively address the child’s behavior pattern. “

“Signs of behavior problems displayed by children include behavior and anxiety problems, mood swings, sleep problems, persistent sadness, changes in eating habits, temper tantrums, difficulty concentration, withdrawal from social interactions, irritability, weight loss or gain, changes in school performance, constant headaches, a desire to harm oneself or others, behaviors unusual patterns and personality changes. If your child’s behavior is not adapted to his development, such as if your child continues to have temper tantrums or engage in violent activities, it is essential to seek professional help, ”warns -it.

Agree with her, Dr Himani Narula, a developmental pediatrician, adolescent mental health expert and co-founder of Continua Kids says she can see children of all age groups with developmental and health challenges. behaviour. “Toddlers arrive with significant social and communication delays due to social deprivation. School-aged children face academic challenges and parents need to devote more time to helping them cope. Teenagers worry about their future. There is an increase in symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.

Dr Narula warns that any child exhibiting “symptoms of depression, anxiety or stress in the form of a sudden increase in irritability, aggression, increasing fear, sleep disturbances and eating habits, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, self-harm or suicidal thoughts that persist longer. more than two weeks ”should be reported, and that parents“ be guided to seek help from mental health professionals ”.

Rai adds that because children don’t always “verbalize their emotional struggles” when emotionally harassed, it is “often expressed in physiological changes and altered patterns of behavior.” “If the child has resorted to unusual behavior even after being counseled, school authorities should report it to parents so that the child can receive timely medical care,” she concludes.

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