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No Child’s Play: A School Counsellor Helps Break down Challenges Faced by Children of Today

Thirty-five-year-old Inderjeet Sokhi never thought she would work with children as a counsellor in an IB school in Mumbai. A health scare in 2014 got Inderjeet to rethink her career choices. While this may not have been her choice by default, she believes the shift has been one of the best things that happened to her. Since then, there has been no looking back. Today, Inderjeet has worked with over 200 children one-on-one. 

One may think that working with children is a piece of cake, but ask anyone who works closely with children and they will tell you that at times, they can be a handful. Isn't then a counsellor’s role the most important? According to the statistics and a factsheet published by the World Health Organisation, (WHO), globally, one in seven 10-19-year-olds experiences a mental disorder, accounting for 13% of the global burden of disease in this age group. Depression, anxiety and behavioural disorders are among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents. The consequences of failing to address adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.

In Sokhi’s current school, she works with 16 children on one-on-one counselling. You will often find her walking from corridor to corridor with a child who may be sharing some of the most intense things with her or at times, just talking about how their day went. 

One of my early encounters with Sokhi was talking to her about an 8-year-old child who would prefer sitting under the table during half the class and having sudden outbursts. Not knowing how to get the child to feel better, I reached out to Sokhi, who patiently sat with the child under the table for almost 15 minutes. She made the child comfortable and watching the child get up from the table seemed like a victory for us! After a month, when Inderjeet met the child’s parents, she got insights into the child’s life and her behaviour made perfect sense. The child was bullied in her previous school, and was also ridiculed and hit by other children, which made her confidence level fall. The child was not comfortable with her classmates and chose not to collaborate or do teamwork.

At a time when children have easy access to devices and their playtime is replaced by time on gadgets, we find children lonely, isolated and less social. 

Sokhi resonated with this thought and shared that many adolescent girls base their idea of a perfect body on what they consume on social media and are going through issues of body image and also developing a sense of low self-esteem and self-worth. Bullying is a common thread and children can get upset with things their classmates talk to them about. When it comes to younger children from Grades 1 and 2, children show signs of anger and aggression or find it difficult to follow basic instructions shared in the classroom. Thus, Sokhi believes that it is imperative to work with children from an early age. She also believes that while these manifest in their behaviour, these are often just symptoms and deeply rooted in the environment at home or issues that children may be undergoing. Her job then is to integrate it all in the classroom, make a comprehensive plan with the child and together work with the child’s family.

When I asked Sokhi if children faced similar issues 10 years ago too, she believes that even while 10 years ago these issues existed, the escalation and the rate at which they were highlighted was not rampant. It is the awareness and willingness that makes people comfortable and open to counselling and it is good that it has almost become like a regular health checkup for many who have understood the benefit of it! 


Sokhi shared that Casel’s Social Emotional Learning Framework in the classroom helps children to become self-aware, self-regulate their emotions and get words to express how they are feeling. This is not just used with children who come from counselling but is used in the school as a model across grades.

“The endeavour with the SEL curriculum is to sow the seeds early in life even while these concepts are taught experientially with the hope that children will be able to translate some part of it and make connections. Even if children imbibe some parts of it, it will have an impact on their self-esteem where children will take away life skills which prepare them for the future.” 

Sokhi firmly believes that each child is unique and one needs to tap into their strength and offer tools and guide them in a way that children can see and use these tools. When asked for advice for adults, she believes that children are like sponges and mirror the behaviour of adults and reflect the same back to us. Thus, what one can do is be mindful. She also feels that all children need is a non-judgmental space to be themselves and as soon as they feel safe, they’d be able to open up and feel safe. 

Sokhi’s story sheds light on the crucial role counsellors play in the lives of children today.

Written by Deepti Khera

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