Keep watch for abnormal changes in children after summer holidays

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe time has come when the summer holidays end, and a new term begins at school. Adults who are close to children should keep a watchful eye for any changes in their behavior.

According to the government’s white paper on measures against suicide, there have been a large number of suicides committed by students at elementary schools and junior and senior high schools in August and September over the past 10 years. A total of 599 people under 20 years old killed themselves in 2018. This marked an about 6 percent increase year on year, while suicide rates were declining on the whole in other age groups.

Some children may be worried about going back to school life with the start of a new term, for such reasons as difficulty getting along with schoolmates, keeping up with classes or adapting to group life. To prevent them from making the worst choice, it is essential to respond to children’s worries.

“Everyone has times when they feel pain in their heart.” “No matter how painful it might be, it will always come to an end.” These are the messages written on a handout produced by the city government of Kitakyushu to prevent children from committing suicide. Schoolteachers are urged to say such words to children who look sad, to help soothe them.

One possible choice is to let children who absolutely do not want to go to school take days off, without forcing themselves to go.

A website established earlier this month introduces more than 150 places across the country where children can spend time. Until mid-September, children can make use of free schools, restaurants and play parks to enjoy outdoor activities, either free of charge or at low prices. This is said to be the first attempt of its kind for such facilities to join hands.

Protect kids from abuse

Meeting someone who shares the same worries may help children feel relieved. It is desirable for children in distress to reinvigorate themselves by spending time at these facilities.

Over the past five years, the number of absentees from elementary schools and junior high schools has increased sharply. One factor behind this development is that free schools and the like, in addition to regular schools, have come to be recognized for their importance as venues of learning, thanks to the enactment of a law concerning guaranteed access to educational opportunities.

On the other hand, a survey of people who experienced school truancy found that 40 percent have regretted not attending school. School serves as a precious venue for children to acquire social skills and basic academic abilities. Teachers and parents should give appropriate encouragement to children who have become ready to return to normal school life.

Among the children returning to school after summer holidays, there are not a few who have problems at home.

Children who appear to have gotten thin may not have enough food at home during the summer holidays, with no school lunches available. Children with bruises or wounds may have been physically abused at home and may still be undergoing abuse.

In an abuse case involving a fourth-grade elementary school girl in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, the girl died after long absences from school after the end of her summer holidays and winter holidays. If her school had responded promptly, the tragedy likely could have been avoided.

If any abnormal changes are detected among schoolchildren, schools, child consultation centers and police should cooperate and do their utmost to protect children’s lives.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 21, 2019) Speech


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