How to Tackle Child Mental & Emotional Wellness During This Transitional Phase – Beaconhouse Malaysia

I believe that a child's early years are the foundation for his/her future development, providing a strong base for lifelong learning and learning abilities. However, its sad to know that some children are suffering from anxiety disorders, hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder and depression while learning.

As a mother of 2 young children, I am delighted to attend the 
Beaconhouse Discuss: Tackling Mental and Emotional Wellness in Children with Sherlin Chang, Assistant Manager Early Years Education, Beaconhouse Malaysia and Rachel Khong, Deputy Principal, BNEY Ampang recently.
Beaconhouse Malaysia – The leading private and international school group has urged parents and teacher alike to increase their vigilance and cooperation during this period where students are transitioning back to school to combat rising incidence of mental and emotional issues amongst the 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 the media roundtable and discussion session.

Overall mental and emotional wellness of children has been directly corelated 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 noted that children are likely to feel a sense of isolation and detachment after being stuck at home for such a long time. Separation anxiety is also another factor that could be plaguing many children as they have to relearn how to spend time apart from parents and family after close to a year together while learning from 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.

Some common signs that children are undergoing stress including the children crying for long hours, reduced appetite, lack of motivation or over excitement. This final symptom can also lead to several other disruptive behaviours including frequent pants wetting, lowered 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, BNEY Ampang noted that the pandemic has necessitated changes in usual education approaches that could impact the social and emotional development of children.
“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.
Beaconhouse incorporates character building into the curriculum teaching acceptable and unacceptable behaviours.

She also feels that schools need to recognise that things are different for children now, With students coming back with new experiences and perspectives, schools must be strategic and in 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.

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