COVID-19: Children encouraged to keep spirits up

Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts, Rosy Akbar. Picture: FT FILE

Fiji’s Minister for Education Rosy Akbar is encouraging children to keep their spirits up, and parents are urged to monitor them to ensure their mental health was taken care of.

“Millions of children around the world have spent weeks, months, and in some cases, over a year, away from their classrooms and school friends, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ms Akbar said in a Government statement issued today.

“Studies show that children in this situation have faced a lot of stress as a result, and were experiencing much higher levels of both ‘internalised’ problems like depression and anxiety, and ‘externalised’ problems such as disruptive and aggressive behaviour, than before the pandemic.

“We want to make sure that our young ones do not go through the same thing, especially since they were suddenly asked to stay home, and away from school, after having enjoyed a significant amount of time back in school since the pandemic struck last year.”

Ms Akbar said in addition to the supplementary educational lessons prepared by the ministry, parents also needed to be supportive and check on them regularly to see how they were feeling.

“Children may start to feel anxious and worried about the uncertainty that the upcoming weeks will hold. The mental health of our children is more fragile than we think and they react to stressful situations in different ways.”

Ms Akbar has encouraged parents to sit down and have a conversation with their children about their feelings, and to provide them with the reassurance and positive reinforcement they would need.

“Take note of changes in the behaviour of your children, and address it in a supportive manner.

“Even adults can find staying at home or working from home to be a major adjustment to get used to, so as parents, we must be able to deal with it openly with our young ones before it has a chance to severely impact them.”

She has advised parents and guardians to establish a routine for their children.

“Introducing some form of structure during this otherwise uncertain period of time could help in bringing comfort to our young ones as they would know how to go about their day and what to expect.

“Having a routine which ensures that children go to sleep and wake up at similar times, regularly eat healthy meals, cover their studies and worksheets, exercise, and engage in leisure, play or hobby activities would be great for them.”

The ministry has also reminded parents to ensure their children stay home and do not move around unnecessarily for their own safety.

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