Croatian Radiotelevision: “If we don’t take care of how the children are now, we will have much bigger difficulties and problems with them than their school success”

Psychologist of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, Ella Selak Bagarić was a guest on the show “Pogled preko granice” (“View across the border”) on HTV on September 1, 2020, and the topic of conversation was the beginning of the school year in a situation of corona crisis. “Coronavirus, migrant crisis, and now this stress before the school year, is it all too much for students and their parents and students?”, was the first question to which the psychologist of our Center answered:


“We can say that every beginning of the school year usually brings some stress and is demanding for both teachers and parents and students. What is really specific for all of us today is that this situation requires adjustment, it requires clear information, it requires taking responsibility for both teachers and parents, and the state for everything that awaits children these days. ”


“How do you deal with this amount of stress? Who can best instruct us in this? Everyone needs help, ”the presenter asked.

“Now the emphasis is on the fact that children have to go back to school, in fact, they have to continue with their education. What we must not forget in this whole story is about how these children are. Today, children in Croatia, and in BiH, have actually experienced a number of stressful events everywhere in the world. What is specific to Zagreb, and I know that in BiH some similar situations that cause stress have been happening for a long time, is a cumulative effect of a series of changes, a series of instabilities, a series of uncertainties that then certainly affect how children feel. The beginning of the school year brings some new demands on children, which children usually do not have during the summer holidays when they can sleep longer, when they do not have to take care of some obligations, when parents are more relaxed if they are on vacation when they do not have to take care of whether the child is learning, writing homework. So, the very situation of starting school will bring stress to the whole family, and now this situation in which parents have to explain to their children what will happen, what will be different when they return to school, all this requires that we adults do not put in front of the children only demands to learn, but it is our responsibility to look at how the children cope with the whole situation. Children react individually. Some children will withdraw, and most children will have difficulty establishing concentration and maintaining attention, because they have had online classes or because this period when there have been no classes has been much longer because some circumstances have changed because they no longer sit on a bench with their friend. That is something we have to take care of. What we know from the experience of some other epidemics and pandemics is that when quarantine occurs, one-third of children show symptoms from the PTSD cycle. So, this is not a question of some small stressful circumstances, this is a question of the importance of mental health. Because if we don’t take care of how the kids are now, we’re going to have a lot, a lot more difficulty with them and bigger problems than what their school performance is like. Today we do not have children at risk – all our children are at risk, because all children have experienced what we are. That we walk around with masks, that they don’t go to their friends ’playrooms on birthdays, that they see grandma and grandpa on video, that they might not go to grandma’s for lunch because grandma is a lung patient, etc. So there’s a lot of change there so that we cannot talk about the existence of some risky children. There are some children who are more vulnerable, with whom we may see difficulties sooner, and we will look at them sooner. What we must not allow is that we do not take care of each child individually. We must also take into account that their parents are very important to children. For some, their parents have lost their jobs, they are afraid for their existence, they are afraid that they will survive all this. This certainly creates a difficult climate that the child experiences and anyone who works with children must take care of it. “- tell us Ella Selak Bagarić.


“Do you cooperate with colleagues from BiH and do you consult with each other? Do you share experiences? What do they say are the most pronounced needs of children at this time? ”

“We work together, we hear each other both formally and informally, and what I can say is that it seems to me that the needs of children are the same wherever they live, wherever they are. What both children and parents and teachers certainly need is clear information, and indeed it is something that should not happen in any country if parents do not receive clear instructions on how to talk to their children about what awaits them now. We can’t tell kids “you can’t play now in the hallways and you can’t play on the playground” if we don’t tell them what they can do. So we have to offer them one alternation and say, “You go to school and there will surely be a lot of things that are different. And you won’t be able to play the way you used to play. But activities of one kind or another will be provided, you will see your professors, you have the opportunity to learn something new, and together we will stick to the measures that are now very important to preserve health. Health comes first, ”said Ella Selak Bagarić.


“What did online teaching bring to students: what did they lose and what did they gain?”

“I would say that we all had an experience that was not so negative. We had one computerization that happened under the leadership of the crown, and we learned a lot that we didn’t know how to do before. We benefit from the fact that these generations are really digital generations. It is more natural for the children than for us, so they did not accept it worse. But for sure, what we see they lack is one sense of community, one feeling – to go to school, this is my class, these are my teachers. And there’s no interaction, so, I don’t know what your experience is, but when I talk to colleagues everyone says the kids didn’t even go to online school because they turned on the recorder, so they’ll sleep longer and then look later. So one discipline is missing. And parents who have to go to work don’t know what the child is doing and don’t have the ability to provide the child with care at home. So it’s certainly something the kids have lost. We do not know what will happen in three months, and I think it is important that we tell the children very openly and honestly, that we tell them that we will find the best way to deal with the situation we are in, and that they are not alone. And in order for parents to be able to say that, in fact, the state must provide clear information about what will happen, “concluded Ella Selak Bagarić.


Source: Croatian Radiotelevision


Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center cannot be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy.   


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