Beaconhouse Malaysia, a leading private and international school group, has urged parents and teachers to be more vigilant and cooperative during the transition period for students returning to school in order to combat the rising incidence of mental and emotional issues among students.
“Children are now just coming back to school after nearly one year of learning from home and while there have been plenty of conversations about their physical safety more must be said and done with regards to their mental and emotional wellness,” said Sherlin Chang, Assistant Manager, Early Years Education, Beaconhouse Malaysia.
During a recent media roundtable and discussion session, Beaconhouse Discuss: Tackling Mental and Emotional Wellness in Children, she echoed these sentiments.
Children's overall mental and emotional well-being has been found to be directly related to their ability to learn and develop both academically and socially.
“Children have gone through a lot over the past year and this has had a detrimental effect on their mental and emotional state. The prolonged time at home coupled with the very sudden switch to being back at school full time can have a compounding effect on their state,” she continued.
Sherlin observed that children who have been confined to their homes for an extended period of time are likely to experience feelings of isolation and detachment. Separation anxiety is another factor that may be afflicting many children, as they must relearn how to spend time apart from their parents and family after spending nearly a year together while learning at home.
“So while things are now starting to change – as students head back to school, for some children and parents this could be just the beginning of their problems. As they leave the comfort of home and head back to what must feel like a completely alien environment, stress could be a major factor. This is why it is so vital for teachers and parents alike to pay attention to the signs that children are undergoing some form of mental or emotional stress” Sherlin added.
Children who cry for long periods of time, have a reduced appetite, lack motivation, or are overly excited are all signs that they are stressed. This final symptom can also lead to a variety of other disruptive behaviours, such as frequent diaper rash, decreased attention spans, and children becoming increasingly distracted.
“Disruptive behaviour may not only be a sign of stress. It could also be a holdover from bad habits picked up whilst at home. Children can be increasingly restless, constantly moving around class or wanting to leave to go to the toilet.”
“Some children may be unable to focus in class or feel extra sleepy. This is likely due to changing sleep patterns over the course of the past year. As children did not have to travel to school, most could wake up later which in turn meant sleeping later at night as well. This is something parents will have to monitor and adjust gradually to get children back into their normal school routine.”
Meanwhile, Rachel Khong, Acting Head of BNEY Ampang, stated that the pandemic has necessitated changes in traditional educational approaches, which may have an impact on children's social and emotional development.
“Children are usually quite sociable but with the pandemic we must take precautions that go against this nature of children. They have to remain one-metre apart and this is difficult especially for younger children – constant reminders are needed. This also impacts their overall development as one of the main ways young children develop is through social touch,” Rachel explained.
Beaconhouse believes that parents and teachers will need to be more vigilant during this time to monitor and manage the behaviour and attitude during this time. “Set aside some time to talk to them about their day. Learn what they are feeling and thinking – truly listen. We have found that children are happy to open up if approached delicately and sincerely. We must give them a chance to speak and share their opinions,” Rachel added.
Rachel also stressed that communication approach to children was important to make them feel safe, respected and motivated. “A positive statement or acknowledgement will be for more effective. Something like You did a good job making your bed or I am proud of you for accomplishing that task.”
Rachel also believes that children should also be given more choice and voice in expressing themselves. Giving children the ability to make healthy choices will enhance their self-esteem and logical thinking. “Our role as educators and adults are to enable these environments be empowering children with choice.
Character development is incorporated into the curriculum at Beaconhouse by teaching acceptable and unacceptable behaviours.
She also believes that schools must recognise that things have changed for children. With students returning to school with new experiences and perspectives, schools must be strategic in their approach to the transition back to school.
“Any transition should be done carefully and gently. Adopt some of what made learning from home special and integrate that with more conventional school methods. Most importantly parents and teachers must have open lines of communications to collectively address the issue,” Rachel added.
For more information on Beaconhouse Malaysia visit: www.beaconhouse.edu.my
About Beaconhouse Group of Schools
Beaconhouse is an international network of schools, headquartered in the UK. The Beaconhouse Group stands as the largest school system of its kind, with operations in various parts of the world, including Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, the Philippines, Belgium and Thailand.
For the past 45 years, it has been providing quality education from pre-school to post-graduate levels, based on a strong educational background. Beaconhouse Malaysia currently owns and operates 13 schools within the Klang Valley.