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Making tender minds emotionally secure
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Making tender minds emotionally secure

Parents and teachers can provide the best support and understanding to their children and help them to manage their emotions and anxieties appropriately
 A child with the parent
Representational image | Shutterstock

A fancy dress, an attractive snack box and a water bottle to go with it marked the kindergarten induction of three-year-old Bengaluru child, Khanak Chaudhary. These blandishments were initially good enough to get her to enjoy school.

But soon her behaviour started to change. She would not let her parents go to work. She was not sleeping well and would wake up at midnight to check if her parents were there.

Her mother, Jyoti Chaudhary, says Khanak’s behaviour surprised them as she has been a friendly child. To clear her doubts, Chaudhary asked parents of other children who were going to play schools, but none of them faced her kind of problem with their wards.

“My sister’s daughter, Megha, also started school at the same time, but she behaved well and enjoyed school life,” she says.

At first, the Chaudhurys took their daughter’s new ways casually, but when the problem persisted for almost two months, they consulted a child psychologist. “[Until she went to school] Khanak was a playful girl, enjoying and sharing her toys with others and friendly with all the kids she met  in the park in the evening. So, we never expected this [disturbed] behaviour from her. But when it did not change, we consulted a child psychologist and learned many techniques to manage it,” says Khanak’s mother, who works with a multinational company in Bengaluru.

As suggested by the psychologist, the parents began to engage the child in healthy conversations as they played together. They consciously kept eye contact while communicating with her. “These simple actions from us gave her a sense of security.”

Making them feel secure

Dr Munia Bhattacharya, consultant psychologist at W Pratiksha Hospital in Gurugram, says that some kids may feel emotionally insecure when they start going to school. Hence, it is important for parents to closely observe their child and be sensitive to its feelings. Children who feel secure and safe develop intellectually and emotionally.

According to Dr Ali Khwaja, counsellor and life skills coach at Banjara Academy, Bengaluru, every child is unique. He advises parents to observe, interact, and most importantly, listen to the child. Encourage children to express their needs (and wants), and devise ways to fulfil them, get their feedback on whether it is satisfactory, he suggests.

Personality development

Dr Khwaja says, “Behavioural scientists say that at least 80 per cent of the success, fulfilment, and progress of a child depend on its emotional intelligence. Hence, teaching a child self-awareness, management of emotions, motivation, empathy, and social skills should be the goal [while nurturing] its personality.”

He further suggests that children regularly need to know and be assured that they are loved. They also need to be appreciated for their efforts and not just for their achievements.

The pandemic effect

Bhattacharya of Gurugram says emotional insecurity has increased among children after the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country. For almost two years, the youngsters spent time at home in an almost social vacuum, without meeting other people or other children in person. As things return to normal, they find it difficult to interact with their mates or express their emotions.

Karandeep Manjeera, a Class 11 pupil from Kolkata, was considered a model student and son at his school and home: studious, caring, dutiful, and friendly towards his schoolmates.

When classes were held online during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdowns, he could not concentrate on studies. His parents thought this would pass once regular classes resumed.

Until then Karandeep was known to never miss a class. But when school reopened, he started avoiding classes on one pretext or the other. He also did poorly in exams.

Karandeep’s mother Gurmit recalls, “Our son was not doing well in online classes. We thought he would [bounce back] when regular classes started.” But he started giving lame excuses and missing classes.

Manjeera said that was when she and her husband started talking with him often. They convinced him that they were not concerned about his academic progress but rather about his happiness.  Their efforts worked and the boy regained his sense of security. He scored 97 per cent marks in high school examinations, thanks also due to his teachers’ support.

The missing years

Madhurima Acharya, academic coordinator (Senior School), Delhi Public School Newtown in Kolkata, says, “Kids are coming back to school after three years. Students who were in Class 6 before the lockdown are now in Class 9. As a result, they are struggling to keep up with their studies. Emotionally also, they have become very unstable.”

She further says that in these COVID-19-dominated years, “Children have not interacted with anyone. They just watched TV or played on mobile phones, so they are not able to express themselves verbally as well as emotionally. Because of much interaction on platforms like WhatsApp, their skills in thinking, communication and expression have decreased. Many cannot articulate their thoughts in words. Generally, kids share their thoughts with the teacher, but in the last two years that has got disconnected.”

Others’ problems

Acharya attributes some of these problems of pupils to the problems they may have seen from close within their families. She says, “Some students have gone through many ups and downs in the last two years. [It could be] parents losing jobs, quarrels between parents, and financial turbulence. A few students try to share their feelings with teachers and we encourage them.”

She says her school, along with a few others, has appointed to speak with the pupils and make them unburden their anxieties. “We have conducted activities where kids interact and work in a group. This encourages them to open up and express their feelings.”

Managing young minds

Dr Khwaja says that for parents or teachers, the key is to become aware of emotions that are going on in the young minds. They should teach the child words that describe its specific emotions.

While their emotions are acceptable, children should be told that strong emotions coming out in a destructive manner are not acceptable. Sometimes, a carrot and stick policy may be apt: a word of appreciation or a reasonable reward when the child behaves well emotionally.

Dr Munia Bhattacharya offers these tips to adults while handling children of any age.

  • Show affection: Children need to be physically reassured that they are loved. The growth of a baby’s brain, for example, is determined by how much physical contact it receives.
  • Listen attentively: Take time to stop, listen to what your child is saying, and respond. It will build confidence in the child.
  • Teach discipline: Children need discipline to learn about socially acceptable behaviour and norms. They need to learn how to live respectfully among others. Parents also need to practise what they teach as children automatically emulate their parents.

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