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Helping Your Child Feel Connected While Social Distancing

Published: April 19, 2020 | Last Updated: April 19, 2020 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading
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Staying connected while apart

Like adults, children thrive on consistency but the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic–including social distancing—have upset the sense of order of our lives. Staying connected takes more effort.

Socialization is not only an important part of the school experience, both for sheer pleasure and for developing social skills, but it’s also something to which kids are accustomed. With schools online, children and teens are missing out on their face-to-face interactions with peers and need to find new ways to stay connected.

Lack of “friend time” can create anxiety, depression and insecurity, a loss that your children may be grieving, in addition to the stress they are experiencing surrounding the coronavirus and all its disruptions. With kids spending so much time using technology for their studies, parents may be concerned about the overuse of screen time for socialization but technology can help bring people together and remain connected when they have to stay physically apart.

Staying connected while we’re apart

Here are some ideas for helping your child remain socially connected while social distancing:

  • For grade school kids, see whether there are opportunities for your children to continue the activities they previously enjoyed in your community, such as dance classes, scouting and even some sports. The continuity of familiar faces and structure will help ease some of the anxiety kids are experiencing.
  • Coordinate a Netflix night with a parent of one or two of your child’s friends. Using FaceTime or Zoom, simultaneously turn on a movie so the kids can share the experience and talk about it to each other. Don’t forget the popcorn!
  • Have your child send postcards or write letters to friends and family. In addition to staying in touch, this offers the bonus of practicing and boosting writing skills. You’ll also help out the post office whose revenues are declining. Who doesn’t like receiving mail?
  • Children who don’t have friends with whom they can Zoom can communicate online with family members, also playing instruments, dancing or singing. This can help compensate for missed concerts and recitals and be fun for all involved.
  • Many families have found baking to be an enjoyable and tasty activity for kids during this Great Pause. Setting up a tablet or smartphone to connect can allow your child and a friend to have a virtual playdate, either making cookies together or decorating ones you’ve baked. Another option: With another parent, help your child plan a simple crafts activity with a friend. 
  • Kids feel important when they can be helpful. With older people in nursing homes are not allowed to have visitors, drawing pictures for residents or writing them notes.

Different children have different friendship needs

Some other considerations in helping your child stay connected:

Try to help kids create a balance between family time, school and online time with friends. And, of course, remember that the lack of physical distance creates different problems and opportunities for children of different ages.

Although middle school kids can communicate with friends more independently, they still need to be monitored for appropriate communication and to make sure there is no online bullying. 

High school teens are likely experiencing deeper grief over their social losses, particularly graduating seniors who won’t have end of year memories like proms and graduations that they’ve waited years to experience. Give them the space they need for grieve. Help them find ways to make the milestones special by letting them set the tone, and respecting their boundaries even if your idea sounds perfect to you.

Remember, we’re all navigating the new normal together, unsure of the duration of the pandemic or to what extent social distancing will be a way of life for the foreseeable future. 

What ways have you found to help your child socialize with friends during isolation?

More information from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:

Helping Kids Cope While Sheltering in Place

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS, Online friends

Comments (2)

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  1. Karen says:

    Hi, I’m really struggling with my 17 year old daughter during this pandemic. She only wants to see her boyfriend, but we have only let her see him social distancing at our house. It’s causing depression, anxiety, so much tension in our house. How can I help her. Even her friends are not willing to wear masks and it’s so disappointing. Help.

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