Anticipating an imminent change in daily routine, specialists agree that parents should try to give explanations based on what they’ve noticed about their children’s mood.
The national epidemiological warning level is moving further and further away from red and closer to green, so mental challenges lie ahead once the stay-at-home campaign is laid to rest. One of these is children going back to the classroom.
Two experts interviewed by Tec Review agree that brief instruction on the oft-mentioned health regulations, such as wearing face masks, regularly washing hands, and keeping a safe distance, isn’t enough for kids, since they mostly conceive the world as it truly is, beyond imposed codes of conduct.
This might sound strange to adults, whose social and work dynamics mean they usually focus more on following rules to gain acceptance from people around them or to keep a job. Children aren’t like that.
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To this end, Roselynn González Pasten, a humanist psychotherapist with a certification in Gestalt therapy, says that although no-one knows exactly when an imminent return to the classroom will happen, the pandemic itself has taught us what to do when it does.
“This pandemic has taught us to focus more on being than on doing. It’s taught us to observe children’s emotions more closely,” she says.
This is because many parents have had to spend more time with their children at home, due to the health recommendations on not leaving the house often to avoid the risk of catching SARS-CoV-2.
So, according to González Pasten, we should keep doing that. Now that kids are going back to school, parents shouldn’t just give them orders about what to do in terms of wearing a mask, regularly washing their hands, and so on, but also favor explanatory dialog based on what they’ve observed about their children during recent months.
“Human beings need explanations, not just adults, but children too. Now that they’re about to experience this change, they’ll begin to interact with their classmates once again, who’ll have different ideas regarding the pandemic. All of this is based on what each child experiences in his or her home environment. So, it’s important to explain to your children that they’re going to encounter these comments, some of which will be true, and others won’t,” says this psychotherapist.
What’s more, there’ll be new codes of conduct at school because of the health emergency, and parents must also explain these to their children. According to González, it’s not a good idea for the explanation to only come from the school.
“You have to explain to your children that they’re going to come across different points of view on Covid-19 from other children and even teachers. There’ll be a lot of comments about fears and anxieties, so this is where the explanation that parents give their children will be extremely important,” says this mental health specialist.
When giving these explanations, which should come from a perspective of being rather than doing, it’s essential that parents don’t convey excessive concern that makes their children feel too pressured.
“Children process new rules better when there’s an explanation involved, but you have to do so without passing your fears on to them. You have to tell them why they have to do things (such as regularly washing their hands) in a way that doesn’t alarm them. Whatever you do, don’t tell them, ‘Because if you don’t do it, you’ll infect me, and I’ll get sick.’ Then we’d be burdening children with a responsibility that isn’t theirs,” warns González.
She insists that parents should follow their instincts. Only then will they be able to truly give the best instructions, based on recognizing the physical and mental state of their children.
“You have to observe whether your children have been sleeping, whether they have bags under their eyes, whether they have teary eyes. This gives you more information so you can focus more on being than on doing.”
Marcos Vinicio Vicuña González, Western Region Wellbeing and Counseling leader at Tecnológico de Monterrey, agrees with González Pasten in the sense that parent-child communication is key to a smooth transition during the change in routines that lies ahead.
“It’ll be a challenge for students, it’ll be a significant challenge depending on their environment, but it’ll also be a challenge for families. So, one of the most important elements that parents should pay attention to is communication, i.e. having open conversations so that their children can express their concerns, their thoughts, and even their fantasies concerning this return to the classroom,” says this Tec director.
Vicuña González recalls that staying at home came about due to a health threat, so this in itself increases stress and anxiety levels when going back to school. Even when there’s a lot of information on the subject, some uncertainty always remains as to whether or not there’ll be further infections.
“Unfortunately, some of the students have also suffered the loss of someone close to them as a result of this exact situation. So, communication will be even more important for kids to express what they’re thinking could happen during this return to school.”
This specialist explains that if parents can’t control their own fears, it’s advisable for them to approach a mental health professional so as to move forward and not affect their children.
“Because children’s fears are often instilled by their parents,” Vicuña concludes.