The coronavirus has created huge changes in everyone’s daily routine. Those changes can be a significant cause of anxiety in children of all ages and could also be causing social development issues. A new learning environment and the loss of their school friends may be a source of anxiety. Others might become fearful after hearing the constant news reports of “confirmed cases” and “death totals.” Spending increased time with siblings could be a source of frustration and irritation.
This anxiety can have a tremendous impact on a child’s emotional development and significantly impair their social development. Whether your child is experiencing anxiety related to COVID-19 or you want to make ensure they are developing the best skills possible, the following 9 tips are designed to help you promote their social development.
1. Pay attention to your own stress levels.
Your parents may have said “Do as I say, not as I do”. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Children, especially younger ones, are like little sponges. Their primary way of learning is by watching and imitating you.
If you are constantly anxious and stressed, they will begin to mimic your behavior. Before you can help your child work on their social development, you must examine yourself. If you are consistently stressed or feeling disconnected, do something to alleviate it. Try deep breathing exercises, writing a journal or heading outside for a walk.
2. Lead by example.
The good news is your child will also imitate your positive reaction to situations and the relationships you form with others. As a result, you should take every opportunity to model appropriate behavior. Treat everyone you meet with courtesy and respect. This teaches them good manners and how even strangers should be treated. If your social circle is supportive and non-toxic, they will learn how to foster healthy friendships. Most important, engage with your child. This can be as simple as going on a walk, reading a book or playing a game together.
3. Stay on schedule.
One huge thing everyone is struggling with is the loss of a routine. Structure is crucial for children because it gives them a sense of normalcy that is conducive to socializing. When one day just fades into another, children can struggle socially and emotionally. To prevent this, resist the urge to let them stay up till midnight and sleep until noon.
Don’t overlook how meals impact your schedule. Breakfast might become the most important meal of the day because it requires you to start the day and not just lounge around. Also try to eat dinner as a family at least a few times each week.
Finally, day pajamas may be comfortable but can be counter-productive to social and emotional growth. Therefore, try to maintain the same daily routine as before the pandemic. The simple act of putting on school or play clothes with set times for schoolwork, exercise and screen time will protect your family’s emotional and social well-being.
Thanks to social distancing, we are spending more time than ever with our loved ones. It’s only natural we might become frustrated or angry and say something we later regret. Our words or actions might be directed toward our child, spouse or someone else. Regardless of who it is, make sure that you take the time to apologize and let your child see it. The ability to own your mistakes and apologize is a social skill that everyone needs to maintain successful relationships.
5. Offer up lots of time for interactive play.
Younger children require more attention. After a few days together, you may find your patience wearing thin. It could be tempting to try and hide or plant them in front of an electronic device. Fight that urge and instead do something that gets everyone interacting, such as playing an age appropriate board game. Your child will learn about taking turns and negotiating, while also practicing some other social skills.
6. Give them an out.
You probably know you’re not a perfect parent. This means your child can get just as frustrated by spending all day and night with you as you do with them. Let’s be honest, even the best families get stressed with each other. Give them their own space. Let them know it’s okay to politely walk away from aggravating situations and cool off.
7. Understand their need for screen time.
We all know the dangers of too much screen time. This doesn’t mean it should be avoided altogether. Depending on your child’s age, let him or her connect with friends online, play games, or watch videos.
8. Encourage virtual socialization.
Take advantage of technology by using FaceTime or Skype to let your children chat with relatives and/ or friends on a regular basis. Why not have your mom call your son or daughter and read them a bedtime story over FaceTime? Let him or her talk to the cousins they haven’t seen in weeks via Skype. You may even suggest to your child’s teacher that they hold a quick class discussion over Google Meet so everyone can check in with each other. It’ll help your child feel closer to someone he or she probably misses and combat feelings of loneliness.
9. Teach them things they might not learn in the classroom.
Unfortunately, parents are usually very busy. Our jobs, work around the house, soccer practice and social events kept us on the move constantly. Now that everything is moving at a much slower pace, use this time to teach your child new skills, such as cooking and organizational strategies. Not only will they learn something new, they’ll benefit from simply getting to spend time with you.
Providing positive social opportunities is crucial for children. If your child struggles with social skills, The Social Skills Center is here to help. Online groups are available that will allow your child to learn these crucial life skills in a supportive and nurturing environment with their peers.