Theatrical plays, special interest clubs, field trips, recesses and lunch breaks, inter-school events and final year traditions like proms and graduations have always been something that students look forward to throughout the school year. These events provide a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment after spending long hours within the four walls of their classroom. These also give them a chance to express themselves in a unique way.
When Covid-19 hit, educational institutions were one of the first sectors that needed to adjust to ensure the health and safety of its thousands of students and instructors. Following the government’s safety protocols like BC’s Back to School Plan, protective measures have been strongly implemented by schools. Physical distancing, along with the creation of small learning groups, are observed during recesses, lunch breaks, and extracurricular activities. Playground activities and clubs like dance, theatre, sports, and music will see some changes as physical contact is minimized. Furthermore, it has been strongly recommended that inter-school competitions and festivals are cancelled during this time.
To reduce the spread of Covid-19 and to abide by the various protective measures, schools have made the hard decision of suspending or postponing social events and traditions, specifically those that typically attract a large gathering of students. As a result, students have been missing out on many of the important social activities and opportunities to make memories with friends and family.
Even though it is essential that we understand and comply with the Covid-19 restrictions in place, it is worth taking a deeper look at how children and teenagers will be affected as a result.
Feelings of disappointment or dismay, specifically in younger children, may emerge out of not being able to meet with friends and experience special occasions to the same extent as before. Also, anxiety levels can increase as children may worry or fear for the changes occurring around them, potentially affecting their future.
Through an email interview with Mary Yan, clinical counsellor and family therapist, she provided insights about childhood anxieties. One of the approaches she personally uses to help understand children’s emotional struggles is called Synergetic Play Therapy. Through the use of this therapy, Yan has been able to take a more thorough look at parents’ roles, applying her methods and learnings to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Yan, “There are at least two things that trigger anxiety, or threaten the nervous system. The Unknowns (not knowing what’s going to happen) and Incongruence (what I see or am told do not match what I feel and sense in my body).” She emphasized how important it is for parents to help alleviate their children’s uncertainties.
Yan advises that ensuring constant communication between parents and children is an essential part of improving wellbeing for everyone. It is an essential thing for parents to be appropriately truthful with their children about their thoughts and feelings. Moreover, parents can help their children see the deeper meaning behind the adjustments being made and talk about creative alternatives to enjoying activities and celebrating special occasions without physically meeting.
Yan also advised parents to establish routines for their children to provide a more stable structure in their daily lives, which in turn will boost their sense of control, decrease their feelings of uncertainty, and will ease their anxiety. Planning everyday tasks like family time, arts and crafts activities, mini sports competitions, and regularly checking in with each other are extremely beneficial.
She also notes that as parents, ”we can’t really tell children that they, their family members, or their friends will never get sick, but we can tell them that we can wash our hands more often when outside of the home, keep physical distance and keep ourselves healthy.” To ease fear and worry, parents can reassure their children that those who do get sick are looked after and cared for by families and doctors. They can provide moral strength and improve their children’s state of mind with reassuring statements.
Amidst the present circumstances, technology is a key resource that parents can utilize to help their kids celebrate social traditions and connect with their friends. Some educational institutions and groups of students have welcomed a new normal by continuing events online, with club activities, proms, and graduations being held virtually. Through FaceTime or Zoom, students are able to experience their proms and graduations in the safety of their homes. Parents can hold intimate homestyle graduation ceremonies and photoshoots as a gift for their children, while special interest clubs like drama, music, and dance can do their performances virtually.
Despite the shifts in our way of life due to Covid-19, it is inspiring to see how we all are continuing to learn and adapt in the face of adversity. Traditions like school celebrations and extra-curricular activities may change in structure, but they remain valuable and should not be forgotten. These events are moments that children keep in their hearts for a long time, and should be treated as such.
Author: Marielle Valmores