Many of us still remember how shy we were as kids. It can be difficult to make friends when you’re figuring out who you are and what you’re interested in. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic adds another layer of stress to this issue. You want to support your child during this challenging time, but what’s the best way to do so? In this article, you’ll find strategies that you can use to help your child make friends, maintain friendships, and cope with the stress of Covid-19.
Encouraging Social Skills
Social skills don’t come easily to everyone. For most children, they need to be developed over time. One study revealed that close friendships are associated with well-being, happiness, and higher self-esteem. But how do you assist your child in developing the social skills that they need, especially when social interactions are limited during a pandemic?
Actions to Teach Your Child to Improve Social Skills
There’s a common fear in any social situation: the conversation will come to an abrupt halt, and neither person will know what to say. If your child stresses about this possible outcome, you can teach them ways to keep the conversa-tion going. One way is to ask questions about the other person—if there’s one thing that kids like to talk about, it’s themselves! This communication bridge takes the pressure off your child to find a new talking point. If your kid asks a friend about what they like to do or their favorite subject, they might discover that they have a common interest.
Create Common Ground
Sometimes, it’s hard for kids to have a conversation one-on-one. If both of them are doing a task, it can be easier to talk with a friend. When children play on the same team, they work together toward a shared goal, making camaraderie come more easily! Perhaps, encourage them to do joint projects or play games online with their friends. It allows them to converse without social pressures.
Develop Positive Self-Talk
One of the things to talk to children about as a parent is their self-talk. If their self-talk and inner chatter are negative, discouraging, or critical, it’s more likely that socializing will be difficult. Teach them to encourage themselves internally, especially before social interactions.
One of the essential parts of any friendship is being empathetic to the experiences and challenges that a friend deal with. Empathy creates a support system that lifelong relationships are built on. When children show understanding to their friends, they become a go-to, and kids like being around them.
Another way for your child to show empathy is to share toys and belongings. For example, if another kid wants to use the most popular toy in the classroom, encourage your child to give them a turn with it. No one wants to be friends with the kid who hogs all the toys. But the one who shares them? They will certainly be more popular.
Both adults and kids pick up on all sorts of little cues during conversations. Signals like eye contact, hand gestures, and nodding or smiling all indicate that someone is engaged in a conversation. This type of body language comes naturally to some, but it’s a skill that needs to be developed for others. Encourage your child to show that they’re interested in a conversation using friendly facial expressions and other social cues. And teach them to observe their friends’ cues so they can find opportunities for empathizing.
Remember to tell your child that there is nothing wrong with being who they are whether they are, perhaps a bit shy or if they’re the life of the party. Everyone is different; some children love to be the center of attention, while others are more introverted. Both are okay! Being themselves is the best way to make friends.
Socializing During Covid-19
Teaching your child social skills during COVID-19 is more challenging. Many kids are often unable to see their friends, so it’s much harder to make friends, too. Therefore, you need to find other ways to support them when social contact must be limited.
Make a Schedule
Staying home all day might be fun initially, but as many of us know, it loses its charm quite quickly. Your child may notice this shift as well; they are originally excited to stay home from school, but eventually, they begin to miss their classmates and teachers.
When things are too unpredictable, it can make your kid feel stressed. Give your child a sense of normalcy by creating a daily routine. Little things like regular waking and sleeping times, meals at consistent intervals, and reoccurring habits (reading time, playtime, and a daily walk) can help soothe their anxiety.
Limit Screen Time
With many schools choosing to switch to remote learning, children are spending more time than ever online, whether it’s for schoolwork or playing games. It’s important to limit your kid’s time in front of a screen to a reasonable amount. This limit will leave time for healthier activities like playing outside, reading books, and spending time with family.
Related reading: “Teens and Screens—Why Do Teens Love Screens So Much?”
Set Up Virtual Play Dates
Just because your child can’t see their friends in person doesn’t mean they can’t interact. Set up video calls for your child and their peers to ward off feelings of isolation. When your kid knows that their friends miss them, it can give them a much-needed sense of belonging.
Talk About What’s Going On
It’s normal for your child to be confused about the pandemic. If they’re very young, they may have no real grasp on the situation; if they’re older, they might feel afraid. It’s important to keep an open dialogue about the virus so that your child knows they can bring up any concerns they have. It’s a hard balance to strike—you want your child to be informed about the situation, but you don’t want to unsettle them with the details. Try to answer their questions but stay focused on the positives; remind them that this situation won’t last forever, and a vaccine is on the way.
If your child is dealing with anxiety or depression that interferes with their daily life, it can be beneficial to give your child coping skills and ways to self-calm. And if the emotions get unwieldy, consider scheduling a meeting with a children’s counselor. A recent study found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for children with anxiety disorders.
Parenting is challenging enough as it is, but it’s more complicated than ever during a pandemic. On top of your own stress, you must learn how to support your child during uncertain times. So be sure to make time for self-care! And by using these strategies, your child will learn to develop their social skills and manage their anxiety during an unprecedented time of change. Regardless of how long this pandemic lasts, remember, they’ll be much stronger because of what they’ve gone through. Stay encouraged!
Related reading: “Bringing Preciousness Back into Family Time.”
Thank you to Veronica and the team at https://www.kidthink.ca/
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