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Editorial: Children need attention as schools in Japan close for summer amid outbreak

Many schools across Japan are at last closed for summer vacation even though it's now already August. Schools had earlier temporarily shut down due to the prolonged effects of the novel coronavirus outbreak, forcing education facilities in many parts of the country to extensively shorten their vacation periods.

    According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the most common summer vacation period for public elementary and junior high schools is 16 days this year, and 23 days for high schools.

    Children are under various types of stress amid the coronavirus crisis.

    The National Center for Child Health and Development carried out polls targeting elementary, junior high and high school students during school closures and after classes resumed. In both cases, 30-40% of respondents said, "I feel down when I think about the corona (outbreak)" and "Recently, I find it hard to concentrate," exhibiting a great deal of stress.

    Around 10% said they self-harmed, or physically abused their family members or pets. These are apparently tendencies observed mainly among elementary school students.

    When schools were temporarily closed, children felt stressed as they could not see their friends. Now that they have reopened, children are forced to endure inconvenient school lives where, for example they need to always keep a distance from each other and maintain tight class schedules, as schools try to make up for delays in their studies.

    We need to keep in mind that children are out of school for the summer after facing these circumstances. It's important that adults understand and mitigate their concerns.

    If it were a regular summer, families could have getaways from their everyday lives by going on trips to the seaside or the mountains, among other activities, to improve their communication. This summer, however, people in some areas have been requested to restrict their activities to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

    In such cases, families can go out to nearby parks or rivers to observe nature, for example. It's also a good idea to recommend parents' favorite books to their children. These activities will help families share the same experiences and have time to talk about them.

    Children becoming addicted to gaming is a further concern. Such behavior will not lead to children having peace of mind and could potentially disturb their sleep cycles.

    Parents are also stressed out because of the coronavirus, and there might be times when they feel burdened to take care of their children. Schools and local governments need to establish systems in which adults can listen to children's concerns and not just leave it to households. Local bodies should also put more effort into promoting child care consultation channels.

    When a child is stressed about school life, they are said to become mentally unstable soon after long school vacations end. We ask that adults pay attention to children so that they can come back to school refreshed after summer vacation.

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