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Coronavirus: Children better off at school say psychologists

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The psychological association on Wednesday said that children are better off back at school as long as their return is carefully planned.

The association was responding to concerns raised by teaching unions over the decision for all students to return to school on May 21. Final year students at lyceums and technical schools returned to school on Monday.

“The return of students to their daily lives contributes to the consolidation of stability and continuity and is associated with reduced traumatic stress after an epidemic situation,” the association noted.

“The return of children to school needs serious planning and return protocols, taking into account all groups of children.”

It is important to make it easy for the students to get back into the routine, perhaps by starting with a shorter day or slightly less work and expectations, the psychologists believe.

“It is also important for parents, as well as teachers, to convey to children that fear is understandable, has a real basis and is almost universal, among adults and minors, but at the same time send the message that there are ways to gradually deal with it.”

Teachers play a key role in addressing the concerns of students and parents and it is important they respond as well as possible, armed with the right information and a positive attitude.

This will build a climate of trust and allow the necessary measures to be taken in a calm environment.

In addition, the psychological association said, the school community is encouraged to use all available resources to support children on a practical and psychological level.

“Specialist psychologists from the ministry of education and school counsellors can help staff and students discuss issues that concern them with the ultimate goal of gradually rehabilitating children and their families.”

Regarding distancing, which many say is impossible for children, the association commented that people, especially children, have the ability to be flexible and adapt, especially in an environment which serves as a model.

Head of the secondary vocational education and training of the education ministry Elias Markatzis was also positive on Wednesday, saying the first days of the opening of technical schools has gone well.

He said the children went back “with great joy and special enthusiasm” and the same was true for the teachers.

“It would be very sad for the children to leave in March and not return to their schools. Think about how important it is for them to return to school for even those few days,” he said.

It is a given, Markatzis added, that at this moment the priority is for the children to learn about the protection from the coronavirus and only then about the content of their lessons.

While student union Psem and others in the past two days complained distance learning was not working properly, Markatzis said it is working in most cases.

No measure is perfect, he stressed.

“We are making efforts, step by step, step by step, to give the best we can at the educational level, at the psychological level, but to keep the security measures that we must keep,” he said.

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