We have with us Dr. Priyanka Tibrewala, who happens to be the founder of Connect. She is a medical doctor by education but at the same time is also a certified EQ coach. She has been working in this field for two and a half years and has helped hundreds of students, parents, and adults by helping them grow in their life.
How was the pandemic affected the emotional and mental well-being of our kids?
Definitely, it has affected them quite significantly. Mental health issues are at an all-time high in India as well as around the world. The number of kids out of school globally has doubled. It has definitely been a major setback in the life of children in terms of their education, in terms of social growth, learning capacity. A lot of kids, especially in nuclear families or with a small number of people at home do experience loneliness and anxiety.
What is the role of parents in supporting the kids to fight through these tough times?
Parents hold a very important role at this point in time because they are the safe place for every child to express themselves. But parents are also working from home. So a lot of parents feel very overwhelmed, they feel frustrated, they are trying to balance multiple roles. And in all of that, it becomes difficult for parents to give their children that kind of connection time. Just being there for each other without trying to wind up the house, the chores, the work, and everything. As parents, I think the first thing we need to do is be aware that our child needs us more than ever right now. We need to make sure that we give them some specific time which is set out just to be with them and connect with them. You do need to take 20-30 minutes to be with the child, to start opening the doors towards the communication of their feelings. So not only talking about "What did you today?" "Did you finish your homework?" "What did the teacher say?"; ask them "How do you feel today?" "What happened in your school today>" "Were you able to connect with the students?" "Did anyone make fun of you?" It is good to experience feelings but at the same time, we have to empower our kids to navigate through them so they don't need to always stay in that feeling. They need to be able to move out, and take a more constructive approach; feel that they can do something about the situation. They can't do anything about COVID but they can do something to feel better and make the most of this time. As parents, we have to create that space first and that connection so that our kids can bloom even though they are confined in the four walls of the house, everything they are doing is virtual so all the human contact they need we have to give as parents now.
Why does this kind of crisis make the parent-child communication even more important?
Because the kids used to have a lot of friends they could communicate with. They used to go to school, they used to share things with their teachers. Now with online schooling that's not possible because all this happened during the break time when they were able to express themselves naturally and freely. Now that they don't have that liberty it's more important for them to do that with their parents. As a parent, our responsibility has increased. So I don't think of it as a workload, it's more of being aware that "I need to kind of fill in for those conversations". The parent has to become the friend and the supporter.
How to strengthen the inner core of your child during this time and build resilience?
I think that's a very important question because resilience is the ability to bounce back from a setback, from a failure, from anything that's not working right. This is a golden opportunity for us to build this in our kids because there is no traveling; we are at home, our kids are at home, 24X7. We actually need to strengthen the inner core of our whole family and how do we do that? We need to start talking about the values that we believe in. And these are values that we believe in together. It's not that I am teaching you that you should be grateful or hardworking. We are all in this together. Let's do it together. We can set family goals and reflect on them weekly. Like this week we decided that at least 4 out of 7 days we are going to finish our reading goal or we are going to make sure that we exercise. It's easier to imbibe these values in your child through these small activities we do together. The more value-conscious the child becomes the stronger the core will become; the more the conscience and inner-wisdom of the child are going to develop.
Teachers, parents, students, all have to work hand-in-hand for the optimal development of the student. How can they do it easily and effectively?
It's about how all three of these parties have to work together to ensure that the student develops to the maximum capacity. An open communication channel between the teacher and the parent is also important. Suppose the parent is noticing some strange behavior in the child, something which is bothering them. Be open and talk to your teacher about it because they are also equal partners. The teachers should also have the liberty to tell the parent that "You really need to start thinking about this" "I noticed this behavior in the child and I am concerned". So talk to your child about it. When all three of these people work together we are going to reduce the side effects we are facing because of the pandemic.
Any particular advice or message you want to convey to the parents?
I think that this is a golden opportunity for us to reconnect with the kids. They need it the most right now. Every parent out there please try to connect with your kids on the emotional, mental, spiritual level as much as possible. Physically, give them the kind of touch they need - play with them, do things with them so that you are reinforcing that even if nobody else is there, I am here with you.