The number of cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is continuing to increase across the globe. While most children haven’t experienced the infection firsthand, they have all been exposed to life changes and stresses. Children have been faced with the closure of in person classes at schools during the spring semester. They also had to cope with the abrupt change to virtual learning. Children are facing the continued loss of a structured routine and the inability to socialize throughout the summer, this can add to the feelings of anxiety or confusion that they may be feeling. It is important to remember that children respond to stressful events in different and unique ways. Some may be irritable or clingy, and some may regress, demand extra attention, or have difficulty with their self-care. These new and challenging behaviors are natural responses, and it is important to provide them with patience and sensitivity.
While there is still a lot that is unknown about what school will look like in the fall, one thing is certain it is important to create a strong circle of support especially for children. It is important for all people to have a circle of support around them, it provides a sense of comfort, creates opportunities for growth and social interaction as well as a means to stay connected with the community. This is usually a natural process, however given the onset of COVID-19 and the restrictions and repercussions that have come with it, it is important to focus on and cultivate a circle of support and an opportunity for social interaction for your child.
It is vital to discuss the importance of having a circle of support and the benefits of maintaining social interaction with your child especially during a time when they may be experiencing feelings of anxiety and confusion. It may even be beneficial to talk about your own personal circle of support and to model how regular contact with your circle can be beneficial. This way they will be able to firsthand see the benefits of building a strong circle of support.
Examples and ideas for cultivating a circle of support and maintaining social interaction during COVID-19:
Connect with family
These are an unprecedented time for everyone, it is important for children to keep in touch with family members that they may be used to seeing. For example, their grandparents, not only will this brighten the mood of your child but could also be a great mood booster for their grandparents. Whether it is organizing regular virtual conversations or organizing a drive by for everyone to get to see each other, this is a great way for everyone to keep in touch.
Talking about family ties and roots may be a topic of conversation that comes up as families contemplate their relationships. If you aren’t sure where your family are from, consider visiting archive sites like Genealogy Bank to see if you can see your family’s history on there. This could be a useful social activity to have with your child yourself for them to learn useful social and study skills when school is taking place virtually.
Since children have been out of school for several months and being unable to spend time with their friends and build their social skills it is imperative that parents and caretakers encourage virtual social interaction as much possible. For older students they can organize their own get togethers via text or video chat. For elementary aged students, parents and caretakers can help to facilitate virtual interaction for their student. There are so many apps available for children to communicate with one another, work on a project, play a game or watch a movie. Maintaining social interaction is a great way for children to cope with the stresses associated with COVID-19.
Here are some tips for online activities to connect with friends and family from Filucci at Common Sense Media:
Activities on video chat with supervision
Board games (Chutes & Ladders, Candyland, Sorry, Battleship)
Show and tell
Legos, Beyblades, other toys
Apps to use with friends or family:
Words with Friends
Group chat tools for tweens and teens (with supervision):
Bunch Group Video Chat & Games
Discord Chat for Gamers
Activities to do on video chat:
Board games (Sorry, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary)
Watch Netflix together
Talk to you child about the importance of social distancing and keeping your family and those around you safe. This is a great opportunity to talk to your child about supporting first responders and health care workers. Whether it is creating sidewalk drawings or care packages for your local food bank. There are many ways to encourage your child to think about the community at large. For older children this could be a good opportunity for them to volunteer at different organizations.
Explore the outdoors (while social distancing)
There are so many benefits to bring outside and is a great way to support your child’s physical and mental health. There are many options that will enable your child to explore outside with proper social distancing. Whether it is taking advantage of going outside to play a game or read outside or learning something new for example gardening or bird watching, there is plenty that can be done in the comfort of your own backyard.