What Are Four Ways To Help Your Child Stay Emotionally Connected During Social Distancing?
By Gay Cioffi
As a parent and as an educator, I am always mindful of the needs of the "whole" child. By that, I mean, not only are cognitive and physical development important but, social-emotional growth is as well. As the entire country is faced with the challenges of homeschooling, parents are not just struggling with the rigors of distance learning in academic areas, but they are also concerned about their children's social and emotional development.
First and foremost is how to talk to your child about the COVID-19 virus in a way that is age appropriate and does not create anxiety. But, in addition, there is concern about the effects of social isolation on young children. So… how do we support their social connection while maintaining social distancing? Here are four suggestions for how to minimize feelings of isolation and ensure that your child continues to build and broaden their social skills.
Mail Now is the perfect time to revive the age-old practice of having a pen pal. Write a note to classmates, family members, or for the very young, send a drawing or painting. The creative act of putting pen (or crayon) to paper, not to mention the walk to the mailbox, is not only productive, but it helps to maintain a sense of connection with others, which is part of what we are all missing as we shelter in place.
Email Sending messages to family, friends, and classmates via email serves the same purpose. Using iPhones to take photos to email will also enhance your child's ability to communicate with others. Make it a practice of reaching out to one family member, classmate, or friend each day; let your child dictate a message and choose a photo to be included. Establishing a weekly "buddy" with someone in your child's class to email several times a week can create a wonderful bond. Rotate through the class, having an opportunity for your child to get to know their peers in new and novel ways.
Telephone/FaceTime Hearing the voice of the people they care about will be a reassuring experience for your child as they weather this storm. Exchanges about cooking and baking, sharing songs, or just chatting about their day can be meaningful.
Video Conferencing One connection is good; having several at the same time is even better. When my three-year-old granddaughter, Alma, has daily Morning Meeting with her teachers and classmates, she strengthens the bond that she feels with them. Her school, Little Missionary Day Nursery, has done an excellent job of helping her stay connected. When the theme is "stuffies," she carefully chooses which of her stuffed animals she will introduce to her friends. Just like in real school, this virtual circle time provides an opportunity for her to listen, attend, respond, and connect to others.
As she relays the experience to me later in the day, during our own daily FaceTime session, it is clear that while not the same as actually being at school, the video version is a valuable tool in maintaining and meeting her social needs.
About Gay Cioffi;
Gay Cioffi, award-winning educator and parent coach, is a parent and grandparent with over four decades of experience in early childhood education. She shares her passion, wisdom and experience, with parents and the people who care for and about children at www.littlefolksbigquestions.com where she sets out to answer the questions parents face in today's world.