Time to Ace Life Skills Test

Saturdays With Shivani

As I sit and write this, my daughter’s school begins face-to-face teaching. Unlike India where the children stayed online for a prolonged period, for us here in Hong Kong it has been an off and on situation ever since COVID hit our shores in 2020. 

Two years down the line we have started taking things one day at a time but I remember how difficult the transition was; both when we went online and then moved back offline. As much as she pined for ‘real’ school, the first time around my daughter was apprehensive and scared to go back to school. The vaccinations had not yet been approved for children and though things were quite under control here, India was in the throes of a very deadly wave and that fear had percolated through to her. We found ourselves walking on the thin line between letting her voice her fears and allaying them.

As life limps back to various degrees of near normal in most countries and children make their way back to school, I can imagine the kind of pressure they are in. Despite our best efforts, children have gone through a lot in these two years and every age group has had their own set of unique problems. Across parents’ groups I can see anxiety-ridden parents airing their fears and concerns. While all of that is valid, most of it is counterproductive.

First and foremost, if we panic or whine, we make it worse for the children. They already have a lot to cope with because it’s the kids who are actually going through the mental and physical strain of face-to-face schools. Teachers are making a dash towards the finish line so they can have the pleasure of conducting a full-blown robust exam (yes, teachers do get a kick out of it). Can you really blame them? No.

Schools and their infrastructure have been in disuse for so long that it will take a while to resuscitate them to life. While I wish schools cooperated, that never has been the case so it’s pointless. As always, we are on our own and we need to breathe and get a hold of ourselves. This is the time to fall back on all the lessons of resilience, flexibility and empathy that the pandemic has tried to teach us. Unless we learn to loosen our reins, we cannot help our children.

I know it’s easier said than done but allow me to remind all of us to not lose focus of the big picture. Academics, as important as they may be, are less of a priority. To put it crudely, as we have told our daughter as well, a year or two in her life do not matter as much as the rest of her life. Our children will catch up. This isn’t a 100-metre sprint so our strategy has to be centred around building important life skills. The lessons we started learning in the pandemic are being put to test now. If we can ace in them, as allies of our children, I am sure they will be able tackle the curve balls that life has in store for them. Meanwhile, I can’t insist enough on being kind to your children, to the people who are involved in their lives and to yourself. 

Love and light

Dr. Shivani Salil