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Building self-esteem in children during Covid-19 pandemic

Amalgamating all my experiences, thoughts, existing research on children and parents and my interactions withchildren, teachers and parents during the Covid-19 pandemic- I can say that today’s children more specifically the teens are sailing on an ocean of uncertainty.

Building self-esteem in children during Covid-19 pandemic

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  19 Feb 2022 4:00 AM GMT

Dr Juri Baruah

(Retired Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, College of Community Science, Assam Agricultural University. and

Amalgamating all my experiences, thoughts, existing research on children and parents and my interactions withchildren, teachers and parents during the Covid-19 pandemic- I can say that today's children more specifically the teens are sailing on an ocean of uncertainty. Their health, education, personality, self-esteem, morality, sense of identity all are at risk. Never had we experienced such a turbulent environment causing a cataclysmic change in almost all the domains of health, social, educational, financial, trade and others. Children are facing a stressful environment both at home and on the societal front. They are deprived of playful childhood experiences with their peers, playing with nature, attending enjoyable social functions and above all their school experiences with friends, teachers, and involvement in extracurricular activities. Uncertainty is all around us, never more so than today; maybe around the pandemic, the economy or finances, education and career, health, and relationships, much of what lies ahead in life remains uncertain. But as human beings, we crave security. We want to feel safe and have a sense of control over our lives and well-being.

Peeping into the educational scenario, whether a real classroom situation with live interactions with the teachers through eye-to-eye contact, reward and punishment for good and poor performance can be substituted with a virtual classroom situation is still questionable. Students receive multiple types of input in a physical classroom. Teacher's tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, movement through the classroom, illustrations made on the chalkboard/whiteboard are among those that facilitate imprinting of the relevant information in students' brains. Besides one's cognitive make up a student's liking for a subject, choosing a future career based on that subject depends on a conducive classroom ambience created by the personality, technical expertise as well as human skill of the teacher. Establishing a strong personal connection with students can lead to a more cooperative and engaging learning environment. In the current scenario of an educational atmosphere with long-duration online classes where completing the set academic syllabus is more important than the students' grasping of the subject matter, students are in a diffused state of setting future goals. We all agree that the present pandemic situation accompanied by loosing of jobs, glueing to the screen while working from home, loss of life, illness, fear of infection, financial loss, social isolation, closure of schools etc., is causing widespread concern, fear and stress in the minds of people.

The negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the health and education front has already been addressed by various psychologists, educationists, school and counselling psychologists, health professionals and nutritionists. A lot of emphases has been laid by professionals mainly through webinars for helping the young generation in the aspect of mental health. While addressing the mental health issues of this generation some underlying aspects are relevant but rarely touched. Recognizing the existence of different views on the concept of mental health promotion, Sartorius (Sartorius, 1998), the former WHO Director of Mental Health, preferred to define it as a means by which individuals, groups or large populations can enhance their competence, self-esteem and sense of well-being. This view is supported by Tudor (Tudor, 1996) in his monograph on mental health promotion, where he presents self-concept and self-esteem as two of the core elements of mental health, and therefore as an important focus of mental health promotion. The most basic task for one's mental, emotional and social health, which begins in infancy and continues until one dies, is the construction of his/her positive self-esteem. [(Macdonald, 1994), p. 19]. Hence, there exists a strong link between self-esteem and mental health. Studies also show a link between poor self-esteem and an increased risk of risky health behaviours, particularly in teens, such as drug and alcohol use, drunk driving, self-harm, smoking, and carrying a weapon. Those who value and respect themselves the least are more willing to make more dangerous choices that may impact their health and safety. The beliefs and evaluations people hold about themselves determine who they are, what they can do and what they can become (Burns, 1982). There lies the importance of self-esteem which is considered the most relevant to live a fulfilling life and a vitally important psychological strength. Self-esteem refers to the way we view ourselves — good or bad. It is not how others deal with us, but the way we deal with ourselves and the world. Children with low self-esteem have difficulty in dealing with problems, are self-critical, passive, withdrawn, and depressed. They hardly try new things, speak negatively about themselves, are easily frustrated, and often see temporary problems as a permanent one. They are pessimistic about themselves and their life. On the other hand, children who have high self-esteem are cheerful, can handle

conflicts, can resist negative pressures, make friends and hold an optimistic view of the world and their life.

The self-esteem of an individual starts developing as soon as he is born. Therefore, it seems that parents play a crucial role in building their child's self-esteem. It is through parental love and warmth, care, support at the time of need, a child starts sensing his importance and learns to trust people. Parents' actions influence the way children feel about themselves. As kids grow, self-esteem can grow too. But even if a child's self-esteem is low, it can be raised. Here are things parents can do to help kids feel good about themselves:

 Help your child learn to do things - During the process of development, children learn many things. Parents should let them do what they can, even if they make mistakes. The child should get a chance to learn, try, and feel proud.

 Praise your child, but do it wisely: Praising children when they behave or perform well makes them feel good and motivates them to continue the good behaviour.

 Be a good role model: Kids are always watching their parents and learning from the way they behave. Showing a healthy sense of self-esteem by the parents is one of the ways to cultivate good self-esteem in a child.

 Give your child responsibilities and chores: Being responsible for age-appropriate household chores gives your child a sense of accomplishment.

 Never criticise their performance: Parental criticism reduces the child's self-esteem and motivation.

 Focus on strengths: Pay attention to what your child does well and enjoys. Make sure your child has chances to develop these strengths.

 Make clear that your love is unconditional: Let your child know you love her even when she fails or makes bad decisions.

Encourage independence : The elementary-school years are a time of fast-growing independence in kids. Let them figure out how to talk to teachers about any problems on their own, organize homework assignments, make sure their uniforms are ready, and so on.

 Watch technology use: In today's environment, most of us, including students and parents, are consistently connected to our devices. There may be a balance between daily screen time and off-screen activities like going for walks, riding bikes, reading, and playing games together.

 Talk to your child with respect: Speak to your child in a pleasant and friendly tone. When your children are talking, look at them and listen while they are speaking.

Self-esteem is considered the most relevant to our future success. How we esteem ourselves touches the very core of our existence. Self-esteem is a particular way of experiencing the self. And if that self is at war because of outside pressure then life is full of suffering. A positive sense of self is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. By providing the students with opportunities for decision-making when it comes to assignments or classroom rules, creating realistic expectations, praising and acknowledging students' accomplishments, teachers can help develop the self-esteem of students. Moreover, activity-based self-esteem programmes may be organized in both online and offline classroom situations to raise the self-esteem of students.

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