Education and child development experts are weighing in on the importance of addressing student social emotional health when school begins in the fall.
The Guardian reports on a letter sent to the Education Secretary in the UK by a group of child mental health experts, who have called for prioritization of play in the fall “rather than [prioritization of] academic progress.”
They warn, “At this time, many children’s emotional health will be suffering due to loneliness and isolation. As experts in children’s mental health and development we urge the government to prioritise children’s social and emotional wellbeing in all decisions related to the easing of lockdown restrictions and the reopening of schools.”
A trio of child psychologists who helped pen the letter have written a follow up article in The Conversation, encouraging educators to spread the word about prioritizing children’s well being by using the #playfirst hashtag in discussions of the coming school year. They anticipate increased anxiety and fear in children, especially when returning to school in the fall and say the key to mitigating that fear is prioritizing play.
Some education experts in the US are in agreement, as NPR reporter, Anya Kamenetz, highlights in her interview with Dr. Dimitri Christakis. Christakis is the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital and the editor-in-chief of the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
He says: "The social-emotional needs of children to connect with other children in real time and space, whether it's for physical activity, unstructured play or structured play, this is immensely important for young children in particular."
He cites a study linking elevated depression and anxiety among children under lockdown in China and calls for a panel made up of interdisciplinary experts to make school reopening and children’s academic and emotional wellbeing a priority in the United States.
"If we declared the meat supply a national emergency, we should do the same with the brain supply," says Christakis.
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