(Bloomberg News)-At 9 am on Wednesday morning, I received a call from my six-year-old school nurse. He went to bed in her office. The nurse had no temperature report, and he “remained vigilant and multiplied by three.” His teacher said that he seemed to have broken down long ago, not his usual self. When my son (usually not a drowsy child and no longer takes a nap as early as I want) woke up to call me, he said, “I’m just exhausted.”
It is not difficult to see why. Since Hong Kong was forced to suspend classes due to Covid-19 regulations, he has not attended classes for eight months. Most of what he learned from Zoom was learned in Zoom. Every time he came back to the city, he thought that the infection rate was too high, and his return to school would be interrupted. Children need their own routines, and constant interference brings them a lot of pressure. Humans usually suffer from stress by speeding up their heartbeat and reacting to fight or escape. Many people respond with another coping mechanism: just fall asleep.
This epidemic is testing all of us in an era of turbulence, uncertainty and complexity. This is a state familiar to soldiers and firefighters. Our children are also experiencing it. The adults in the room worry about their mental health, work and financial safety, and avoid the virus from raging around us. That environmental pressure was absorbed by our youngest child. And letting them leave school will make the situation worse.
A psychologist said to me: “In a few years we will wonder why some children do not have these emotional and social skills?”
Another thing is that there is no definite causal relationship between classrooms and the increase in infection rates. Although officials are wary of the usual increase in seasonal colds, the school reopened for a few weeks this fall without a major outbreak. However, we are currently conducting the third round of home learning in Zoom, for children aged 7 and 8 years old. The closing of classrooms on Wednesday will be extended to college students, and with the closure of bars, nightclubs and bathhouses, the “fourth wave” will be reduced. (The infection rate in Hong Kong this year is very low, with a population of about 7 million and about 5,700 cases). The latest outbreak is largely due to a group of dance club audiences, many of whom are in their golden age. Or, as another six-year-old child gave me, because “naughty grandma went to dance.” Read about: The anger grew as the case JumpCredit went to school to enjoy Hong Kong’s Erratic Covid rules. I know that teachers and caregivers are at risk, although there is evidence that it is not that simple. However, the start-stop lock function makes it difficult for children to switch online to offline and then back. Classroom habits and independence are affected. Interestingly, younger children who usually start to read around this age cannot accept it and lose their confidence and interest. Studies have shown that child development “is a hierarchical process connecting the brain.” Losing these building blocks will hinder future development.
These pressures on children seem to be a bad way to control the virus. Researchers reviewing school closures to control epidemics, including severe acute respiratory syndrome and Covid-19, found little evidence that they are effective. Although some people suggest that the closure is part of overall social isolation measures, others say the opposite. The suspension of schools has also cut off access to mental health services.
Unlike the situation with Covid-19, when the transmission among children is greater than that in adults, closing schools during the virus outbreak has a better effect. A first draft of a French study by Crepy-en-Valois tracked the spread of the virus. Investigations in six elementary schools showed that a total of three children (possibly from family members) caught it and went to school at the time of infection. They don’t seem to pass it on to their close contacts.
Insights for Education estimates that almost half of the 1.6 billion primary and middle school students worldwide will not return to school this year. More than 80% of them live in low-income countries. In 52 countries/regions across the economy, Covid-19 infections actually increased during study breaks. Policy makers also seem to have forgotten other basic guidelines to protect the well-being of children. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization say that children between the ages of two and five should not have more than one hour of screening a day. Melinda Buntin, director of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt Medical School, said: “Families who cannot afford a screen will comply with such restrictions in 2020,” told NPR. She advocated the use of preventive measures such as wearing masks and modifying timetables to keep the school open in the United States. Although the school district may not have sufficient resources to staff fully equipped teachers or make major changes to facilities, in-person teaching should be given priority, especially for those with disabilities or inaccessible distance learning.Read about: American countryside and Covid face a long and difficult winter
History has provided lessons for how children suffer from wars and natural disasters. The bumpy economy is also painful. A research paper found that a 5 percent increase in the unemployment rate during the Great Depression was associated with a 35% to 50% increase in “clinically significant childhood mental health problems.” Frankly speaking, we must consider the damage caused by stressed parents. I am undoubtedly responsible for part of my son’s anxiety.
He said that he was “very sad” when he learned that the school closed the classroom again. During a Zoom class last week, he misunderstood his teacher and said that they should walk quickly to stretch their legs. He missed half of his writing class. I was working and heard his voice outside. When asked why he was not in class, he was not sure, and then cried because he “messed up his schedule”. It is heartbreaking to view and manage. The memes on Instagram tell me that I am not alone.
Of course, children are resilient. But when they become part of social networks, such as parents, grandparents, cousins and friends, they will be more flexible. They rarely see these people this year. Yes, there is a glimmer of hope that I spent more time with the kids-full of pressure, joy, and gratitude. They also saw more fathers and their travel decreased. As parents, we return to the basics and focus on reading, communication, and social and emotional learning – partly because there are no other options. I think this is a victory.
Just like millions of other children in the world, all my son wants for Christmas is the “elimination” of the virus. I also bought him some Magna-Tiles.
This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or Bloomberg and its owners.
Anjani Trivedi is a Bloomberg columnist covering industrial companies in Asia. She previously worked for The Wall Street Journal.
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