Why we’re committed to maintaining health and well-being in schools during COVID

The importance of maintaining health and well-being in schools during COVID

Healthy eating, exercise, and emotional and mental health are all vital to maintaining wellness. With the added pressure and impacts of the pandemic over the last year, at SISD we believe it is now even more important than ever to maintain a healthy routine, especially for children.

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on children and adolescents?

In a study published in August 2020, researchers predicted children and adolescents would lose months of school curriculum and as a result, anxiety, depression, and stress-related symptoms would be likely to occur. Children with special educational needs may become more frustrated because of the disruption the pandemic may cause to their rigid schedules. 

A published report led by the NAHT in the UK predicted the pandemic would negatively affect mental well-being in children in the long-term in various ways: 

  • Anxiety: Children may feel anxious about illness and hygiene, confused about new rules, or feel uncertain about school closures and their future.
  • Bereavement: Children may have to cope with the illness or death of loved ones.
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, affecting mood and concentration at school.
  • Family experiences: Children may experience conflict, stress, abuse, financial issues, mental health issues in adults, and more responsibilities of care.
  • Friendships: Children may miss friends, lack socialisation and their social identities, lose the self-worth they gain from peer groups, and have difficulties maintaining friendships remotely.
  • Loss: Children may lose routines, goals, rituals such as activities and exams, normal life in or outside of school, or seeing friends or family.
  • School: Children may miss learning, worry about falling behind, or lose access to adults they trust.

Researchers predicted that some children would learn new skills, practice hobbies, music, or physical activity, read at leisure, play indoor games, or spend quality time with elders. These are some of the positive outcomes of not attending school, even if they are temporary. However, the positive effects of this are likely to be negated if the pandemic continues over an extended period of time. 

All children at SISD have had the opportunity to be in school since the lockdown ended (no part-time schooling), and this has certainly had positive effects on behaviour, friendships and social and mental wellbeing.  By being able to see friends every day, play outside every day during breaks and lunchtime, and maintain as much normality as possible, we have endeavoured to protect our students from the negative impacts of the covid pandemic.  In addition, we have continued to teach regular exercise, with at least two Physical Education (PE) lessons per week. We have also been able to offer a limited number of After School activities to ensure children are as active and engaged as possible. 

Our team of counsellors and wellbeing staff have focused on supporting children during this time, and they have recommended the following advice for supporting children and families: 

Be mindful: Mindfulness training can reduce symptoms and improve the behaviour in children with anxiety. Practices can include meditation, slowing down, focusing in a relaxed way, noticing five things your senses are feeling, or taking 10 deep, slow breaths.

Engage the mind: Mentally stimulating activities such as reading, playing board games, crafting, gardening, and fishing help us relax, distract from worries, and reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.

Help others: Research shows that those who seek opportunities to help others live longer and have reduced stress levels and improved emotional well-being. Kindness rewards both the person receiving it and the person gifting it. We can encourage children to help one another at school or volunteer in other ways.

Model positive self-talk: Self-talk is a person’s internal dialogue which originates from their conscious and subconscious beliefs, questions and ideas. Positive self-talk helps us cope with hardships and manage challenging situations; it takes practice and self-awareness. Adults can model this for children and remind them of their positive qualities and achievements. Forming friendships with positive people and recognising when negative self-talk arises also helps.

Play: A strong connection exists between good mental health and fitness. Physical activity increases self-confidence, boosts sleep and brain function, improves memory, and reduces anxiety, depression, and stress.

Stay connected: Maintaining our social connections is critical to decreasing loneliness and maintaining mental and physical health. Even with vaccinations underway, some may be reluctant to return to normal social lives. We can encourage children to reinforce their connections with friends and loved ones by setting regular times to chat and celebrating special occasions.

Sleep: Sleep is as vital as food and water. Poor sleep negatively impacts physical and mental health and may cause low motivation, irritability, impulsivity, stress, forgetfulness, difficulty with learning, anxiety, and depression. Having a consistent, repeated nightly routine is key to triggering sleepiness.

Our dedicated approach to wellbeing will continue at SISD, and become an even more important part of the school going forward. It is paramount that we support our students and staff during this pandemic, and also after it – restoring some sense of normality to life after covid will be our focus.  

To find out more about our school, and to come and see our world-class campus and facilities, please contact our Admissions team – admissions@sisd.ae 

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