‘Back to School’ Social interaction is the need of the hour …

I am an anxious mother of a teenage son! I am perturbed not for some bad habits that my adolescent boy has picked up. I am concerned because he hardly has any social interaction because of the pandemic. Long-term closure of schools and colleges has wrecked the socio-emotional domain of children of all age groups.

My boy attended the school in Class IX, online, with absolutely no charm of school life. He scored exceptionally well in his Class X but had no excitement of being a topper or having cleared the first milestone of the entire student journey. Now he is in a new school and again started with virtual schooling. Eventually, he will be in XII. I fear the worst is not over yet. Another session of a juggle between online, offline and hybrid mode will remain for some time.

Students, who prepare for NEET/JEE exchange information, do group study and exchange their emotional needs. After all, we all know this is the age of your first crush too! You start to understand your feelings for the opposite gender.

My boy is not very outspoken though not an introvert. He has a few close friends with whom he hung around throughout his school days and now on the internet or WhatsApp. During his school days, he used to talk to a few girls in his class. Now, he hardly recalls any names of his classmates. I regret his loss of youthful fun and frolic. The chances of meeting new friends or bonding with another set of friends seem bleak.

I recall my days of schooling as a teenager. It was the most enjoyable time of the entire school journey. The charm of being complimented, getting dolled up, participating in school functions and competitions were fascinating. Our physical appearance boosts our confidence. We want to be attractive in our social interactions. Convincing our parents for new jeans or heels was almost winning the battle. And now I see my son wearing pyjamas and a t-shirt and not even bothered to get a new pair of jeans or shoes as he feels, “Where to go? Whom to show? You should order me a pizza or a headphone.”

The progression of our life from preschool to formal school, from high school to college and from college to career has a unique charm. It is disheartening that my son will jump from class IX to college 1st yr, bloated with theoretical knowledge, no practical lessons of life learnt. I am apprehensive that there will be adjustment issues, settling issues and even more. He might not understand the concept of college hangout. How alarming!

Many parents have shared their concerns about this situation. A parent has shared his experience whose son has never been to college since admission and missing out on the golden days of his college life. For his son, college is all about just getting his degree. He engaged himself with an online portal for internships and is getting paid for the same. This early exposure to financial freedom has given him the liberty to buy online products at his wish and order online food leading to an unhealthy lifestyle at this early age.

 Many parents are dealing with behavioural issues of their wards, while others with addiction to social media and virtual gaming, a few with physical and psychological problems.

The socio-emotional domain is a crucial parameter of human development. A child surrounded by people develops more confidence in facing the world than a child growing up in seclusion.

 Human interaction develops all your emotions, be it aggression or love. Your mind gets trained knowing and unknowingly how to cope with these emotions. These are all lifelong learning that helps us sustain the challenges of life. What about the most talked-about 21st century skills? There is no bookish knowledge that you can acquire by reading. A student needs to emulate these skills from everyday interaction.

I am sure if my son was going to school like before would have developed a few essentials of adolescent life. Gender sensitivity, sexual awareness or career chat with peer groups and a host of diverse issues could have helped him taking future decisions. All these are missing! What else can we rely on but Google for all our answers?

Like thousands of parents, I can only hope for the day when all children will be back to school in a true sense enjoying their life.

By Antara

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