Whilst isolated in lockdown with our children, how can we ensure our children still develop strong social skills? Read on to find out some handy tips.
Life as we know it has changed dramatically in the recently months. Previously, most of us have never known a life of restrictions; we have been free to move around as we please, free to socialise when, where and with who we choose, and free to work and study where we want. In fact, we have become so used to our endless opportunities and freedom that being placed in lockdown measures has left many of us feeling like prisoners in our own homes, dragged from our loved ones with no preparation time or warning. Few people have been left unscathed by the feelings of isolation and loneliness that accompany such an unprecedented event, and limited social interactions are beginning to take their toll on society as a whole.
For some of the youngest members of our society, the lack of social interaction has some serious implications. At an age where social skills are still being honed and developed, a lack of communication with other people for an extended period of time may produce some undesirable side affects, such as social withdrawal, behaviour problems and frustration, and regression of their previously learnt skills. These affects, if left unchallenged, will affect our children into adolescence and beyond.
There is good news though, because as parents, there are some things you can do to help limit the affects of social isolation on your child during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some tips which I have outlined below:
1: Talk with your child. This may seem obvious, but children crave interactions with others; humans are social beings, and children are no different. Never underestimate the power of a simple chat: children learn so much about their social worlds from their daily interactions, such as social cues and how to read body language. Normally, as children reach school age and above, their friends become a very important form of social interaction, becoming even more important than parents. Without this source of friendship interaction, your interactions with your child will likely become more important than ever. Although it is far from ideal for your child to have limited personal interactions with other children, the more positive social experiences your child has with you, the more likely they are to be able to maintain their social abilities during times of crisis.
2: Play board games with your child. With the continuously developing and accessible range of technology options available to modern day children, the good old fashioned board game seems to be a dying family tradition. Yet there is so much social learning involved in board games; for example, turn taking, accepting defeat (as well as winning graciously), and vocabulary building. Top tip: try to make this part of your weekly routine, and let your child choose which game is featured each time to encourage participation and engagement.
3: Try to encourage your child to communicate with their friends via electronic means. In ‘normal’ times, there is no hiding that I am not the worlds greatest fan of children overusing technological devices. However, there are some undeniably positive aspects of living in a digital age in the times of social isolation. Children can video chat, send online messages, and talk to each other using gaming headsets, amongst numerous other outlets. Use of electronics in this way can support children to maintain a feeling of connection to friends and peers, and limit the affect of loneliness.
4: Support your child to notice and respect other peoples emotions. This is another one of those things that is much trickier to achieve during lockdown, but there are still some great ways to encourage this. Whilst watching TV or a movie, try talking about the way the characters might be feeling and why, and how your child knows that. You could support your child to consider how they might feel in the same situation, and if they can think of any other ways they could deal with the emotion. You also play a role play game with your child, such as dressing up or using action figures, and consider how the characters are feeling during the activity.
5:Foster your child’s strong interests. Listen to your child, and provide them with resources and activities which spark their imagination and curiosity. Not only is this great for relaxing, exploring and learning, it will also grow your child’s confidence in their own likes and dislikes. This will enable your child to be able to talk more confidently to others about their interests and provide a good a good basis for strengthening relationships.
Despite all the negativity and fear surrounding Covid-19, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for all of us. I have been truly humbled by the sense of community spirit and comradery I have witnessed, not only in my neighbourhood but around the world. From Italians singing on balconies to lift each others spirits, to British neighbours previously unspoken to supporting each other through the toughest times, it is wonderful to know that people truly do care about each other. Most of us have been lucky enough to still have access to the food we need to survive, and for many, a trip out for groceries has become a social outing. Hopefully, lockdown will be a temporary social glitch in an otherwise loving and caring human race.
Stay safe, stay social, and be kind.
Love, Heather x
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