Covid scars on young minds who lost their parents

A number of Class XII students have shared their fears with teachers that they might not be able to study engineering or medicine after the death of the family’s sole earning member.

Frequent outbursts, abrupt halt to the pursuit of a hobby, worries about the family’s finances… these are some of the many emotional turmoils students who have lost their parents to Covid are suffering from.

Teachers who are reaching out to such students said that while the younger ones were overwhelmed by the grief of losing their parents, the older pupils, though drowned in sorrow, were having to deal with the uncertainty over their future and that of their families.

A number of Class XII students, for instance, have shared their fears with teachers that they might not be able to study engineering or medicine after the death of the family’s sole earning member.

A Class XI student of a city school is worried about how she will recharge her phone every month now that her father is no more.

A Class IV student who has lost her mother made a painting depicting her mother accompanying her to school on a two-wheeler, which she used to do before Covid arrived.

A Class II child has told his teacher that his father’s death has left him with no friends.

Not just parents, a number of students are also having to endure the pangs of losing their grandparents and uncles to the pandemic.

Schools have devised ways to reach out to the children – such as identifying a teacher whom the child can be most comfortable with and initiating interactive sessions with the children.

“There are students who have their guards up and they do not want intrusion. So we have identified a teacher who a child is close to and getting that teacher to interact with the student. The sessions are planned but it is made to appear unplanned so that the child can open up,” said Anjana Saha, the principal of Mahadevi Birla World Academy.

“Some senior students are worried about their future after the death of their father, the sole earning member of the family. They are not sure whether they will be able to pursue a career of their choice anymore,” said Jessica Gomes Surana, the principal of Loreto Convent, Entally.

Sonali Sen, the principal of DPS New Town, said that on some occasions children were displaying conflicting emotions, which showed they had a “restless mind”.

“We have to listen to what they are saying, instead of trying to suggest a solution…. With pouring out (of grief and anxiety), comes some relief,” Sen said.

Teachers face a stumbling block when a student has his or her “guards up and refuses to open up”, a problem that has become more intractable in the absence of in-person classes.

“Our teachers are ready to reach out to children, but it is difficult to comprehend a child’s emotions in an online class. During an in-person class, if a child has her head down or is not answering the teacher’s question, one can assume something is wrong,” said Aruna Gomes, the principal of Loreto House.

Farishta Dastur Mukerji, psychotherapist and counsellor at Calcutta International School, said certain behavioral patterns could be observed in an online space, too. “It could be not submitting assignments on time… or some behaviour that is different from the usual one,” she said.

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