The Psychiatric Specialist Study Program of Faculty of Medicine, Diponegoro University (Undip) in collaboration with the Association of Indonesian Mental Health Specialists (PDSKJI) Semarang Branch held a webinar entitled “Mental Preparation Ahead of Face-to-Face Learning (PTM)” on Friday (28/01) at 02.00 PM. The participants joined through the Zoom meeting platform and live streaming of UndipTV Official Youtube channel.

With the relatively low number of confirmed cases of Covid-19, it is possible to hold Face-to-Face Learning which is limited to students. This of course leads children to adapt again to a new learning environment. This webinar was held in order to prepare the readiness of parents and children in implementation of Face-to-Face Learning. The committee of this webinar invited dr. Natalia Dewi Wardani, Sp.KJ. and dr. Titis Hadiati, Sp.KJ as resource persons.

The first presentation conveyed by dr. Natalia Dewi Wardani, Sp.KJ. regarding the preparation of children in facing Face-to-Face Learning. Not a few children and parents are worried about Face-to-Face Learning amid the increase in cases of the new variant of Covid-19, the Omicron variant. “This is concerning the level of compliance of children aged under 11 years to health protocols which is still below 100 percent,” said dr. Natalia.

According to dr. Natalia, there are several ways to reduce the worry and anxiety, one of them is by ensuring the Face-to-Face Learning schedule. Reducing uncertainty is a great way to reduce anxiety for children. “For children who do have a little concern, here are some tips, try to ask the teacher for a definite schedule. This is a great way to reduce anxiety for children. Discuss with the teacher about the daily schedule and its flexibility. Don’t forget to communicate how the school will review the Face-to-Face Learning schedule to see if it works or needs to be changed,” she explained.

In addition, parents can also ask the teacher for the backup schedule if Face-to-Face Learning must return to Distance Learning (PJJ) because of the increasing Covid-19 cases. Communication between children, teachers, and the school should be intense enough so that children will feel safe.

dr. Natalia said that some children have different attitudes towards Face-to-Face Learning. Some of them will enjoy meeting their peers and teachers. However, there are other children who have adapted to Distance Learning  in their respective homes, so they will feel overwhelmed by the new social environment. Of course this will affect the learning process.

“Face-to-Face Learning is usually good for their overall physical and mental health, it may take them a while to adapt. Being scared is one form of emotions of kids, they need time to process those emotions,” said dr. Natalia.

With good guidance from the school community, teachers, and parents, it is hoped that children will be able to adjust the learning process during this pandemic so that they can take part in the learning process well and smoothly.

Furthermore, dr. Natalia revealed that there are several signs of depression in children when Face-to-Face Learning begins, it can be seen when children withdraw themselves from their social environment; there are disturbances in their food or anxiety about eating; children show a state of stress and physical complaints such as stomach pain; and children will appear to be fear in social circles. “If your child shows any of these signs, try to communicate it with the mother, father, or a teacher who is trusted by the child,” he said.

There are some tips for children in dealing with Face-to-Face Learning, namely by always discussing with parents and teachers about conditions and feelings while undergoing the Face-to-Face Learning. If there is a sign of fear or anxiety, children need to communicate and seek support from parents or teachers. Parents or teachers will make every effort to keep children safe and comfortable.

Parents also need to avoid giving too much security and limiting excessive worry. “It must be safe, no one will get sick at school in the next month, that’s an example of excessive guarantees and needs to be avoided. Assure the children that the policies implemented in the school will adapt to the number of cases and government regulations. Children also need to be limited in worry because not all things should be worried about,” explained dr. Natalia who also serves as Chair of the Psychiatric Specialist Study Program of Faculty of Medicine Undip.

Children are advised to be given tools/applications and vocabulary to manage anxiety through mindfulness strategies. There are applications named My Life, Breathe Think Do With Sesame Street, and Mindful Powers that will make children easier to express their mind. The applications are also designed interesting for them. Children can also read books to calm themselves. “Reading books can help children recognize their emotions and express them better,” concluded dr. Natalia.

Meanwhile, dr. Titis Hadiati, Sp.KJ. discussed the material on mental preparation for parents in dealing with Face-to-Face Learning. This is one form of learning that is considered effective for changing behavior because in it there is direct interaction between teachers and students.

However, Face-to-Face Learning during a pandemic is not an easy thing to implement. All parties need adaptation, both the educators, students, parents, and also facilities in school need to be adjusted to support the learning itself. The main key in implementation of Face-to-Face Learning is by implementing adaptation of new habits, a new way of life that will lead to the creation of a new lifestyle which is accompanied by the implementation of strict health protocols.

The readiness for the implementation of Face-to-Face Learning in schools must pay attention to internal and external aspects. Preparation from an internal aspect is in the form of support from parents and teachers, while from an external aspect, schools must prepare facilities in accordance with the provisions of the health protocols, prepare the latest regulations for school community related to Face-to-Face Learning, and prepare  the school Covid-19 task force if needed.

Support from parents is very important because parents have the main responsibility in educating their children. In addition, the support and readiness of parents is also closely related to improving the quality of educational programs. “Parents must be ready in every aspect both on material and non-material things as well as ready to do something with all the risks,” said dr. Titis.

dr. Titis stated that Face-to-Face Learning in the midst of a pandemic will certainly cause anxiety and stress for parents, so good stress management is needed to overcome it. “As parents, we have to learn how to manage that stress. So stress management is needed for parents to deal with that stress,” she explained.

Stress management is where individuals control or regulate stress. The goal is to identify the causes of stress and know techniques to manage stress, so that people can control stress in life.

“It is normal to feel anxious and worried when we are in a crisis situation, but we also have to know whether what we are facing is appropriate to be worried about or not, or we are overdoing it. So we have to look for reliable sources of information to deal with the things we worry about, such as about Face-to-Face Learning,” said dr. Titis.

In addition, parents need to think positively because it will be beneficial to increase endorphins. Do affirmations by saying to yourself all positive thoughts so that the mind is filled with pleasant experiences and can increase immunity.

“In dealing with Face-to-Face Learning during a pandemic, we as parents must control our stress by thinking positively, managing emotions, creating a nice environment, and building positive spirituality,” concluded dr. Titis.