There’s no need to fret that your child won’t know how to interact with other people. Here’s a list of things you can do together to develop his social skills.
A child needs other people not just for play. Social interaction helps develop language and vocabulary skills, the art of conversation, and social rules, to name just a few. However, our kids have been indoors since March, and the DepEd directive for distance learning will limit their interaction with teachers and classmates. Should we worry about how this affects our kids’ social skills?
Kids are resilient!
While loneliness can be a problem, quarantine itself will not necessarily cause harm to our kids as long as their needs—food, shelter, safety and security, and affection—are met. Dr. Deborah Phillips, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at Georgetown University, tells The New York Times that social isolation, while not ideal for anyone, “suggests that kids can handle big changes, including spending long periods of time in the hospital, moving frequently, or being separated from a parent for stretches of time.”
The first thing we must do as parents is to stop panicking that our kids are missing out. This causes us stress, which can make us overcompensate by enrolling our kids in too many online classes. Our worry can also rub off on our kids and cause them stress. So take a deep breath because your kids are going to be okay!
Even small interactions make a big difference
Dr. Phillips says our kids “don’t need tons of friends or a certain kind of interaction to thrive. Even one good friend can help children develop an appreciation for relationships.” Social interaction doesn’t need to be face-to-face all the time to be meaningful either. Video calls, chats on Messenger or Viber groups, writing letters and sending care packages to family and friends, are just a few of the many ways you and your child can create and nurture connections.
We asked parents how they and their kids are coping with the isolation. Here are their tips on how we can develop our child’s social skills in the age of social distancing.
1. Encourage meaningful interactions with the people at home.
Your home is full of people— parents, siblings, household staff. A strong and loving relationship with parents is the foundation of a child’s good relationships with others. If you have more than one child, siblings are perfect not just for play but to learn negotiation and conflict resolution skills.
Bianca Helen Estandarte reminds parents that in the absence of their peers, we are our children’s default sounding board. “My seventh grader who's going to be a teenager this year kept on babbling about BTS, a K-Pop boy band. She can go on all day just talking about them, even the smallest details. We once got a bit fed up and told her that we didn't need to know those details because there are a lot more important things we need to think about. And then she looked sad and told us that she only talks about BTS non-stop because we're the only ones she can talk to right now.”
Bianca realized that though the BTS chats seemed very trivial, they meant a lot to her daughter. While she had friends, many of them were transferring schools, and they couldn’t always be online at the same time. She was also going through the changes of adolescence in the middle of a rapidly changing world—that’s a lot for anyone to deal with! “I realized that it's not just the grown-ups and grown-up worries that are important in this situation. As parents, we need to be more sensitive about what our kids are going through.”
2. Take care of a pet
Pets and kids are perfect partners in play. Both have a lot of energy and a need for endless cuddles. A pet isn’t just for fun, however—it can also help our kids learn responsibility, trust, kindness, patience, compassion, and empathy.
Krissy Mariano says, “A dog (as well as cats and other animals) is called man’s best friend for a very good reason. They are such a solid source of love and comfort that children who grow up with a pet are less likely to have depression or self-esteem issues. That’s why when quarantine was announced, I felt so grateful that we had a dog. My only child doesn’t even feel lonely. He’s with his best buddy 24/7 now!”
3. Help them empathize with people in books and movies
Reading about other people’s lives or watching plots unfold can be a teaching moment. Mia Alvarez says, “I talk about the situations with my kids. ‘What would you do if that happened to you? What could be her reason for doing what she did? Would you do the same thing?’ I learn so much about what my kids think. It’s also a chance for me to teach them how to react to social situations without necessarily lecturing them because it’s in the context of a fictional setting.”
4. Assign chores to show roles in a community
“Here’s a tip you’ll like,” Christina Ong says. “Assigning chores helps children learn about how society works, which is, ‘We agree to live together peacefully under a certain set of rules and behavior that respects each other’s rights and welfare.” So when your child is setting the table, she is learning that her family depends on her task so everyone can eat. Your son learns that when he packs away his toys, he is keeping everyone at home safe from accidents.” Developmentally appropriate chores teach your child that he is a valuable and contributing member of society.
5. Set virtual playdates and family meetings
The digital age has made communicating with our friends and loved ones easier than ever. Let’s take advantage of all the social messaging apps to catch up with the people we miss. There are also many online classes your children can join where they can meet new people.
Gretchen Panulaya says, “I have to be more creative about [opportunities for] social interactions because my daughter doesn't have siblings. We started video calls with her friends and family members, writing letters and postcards, and joining online games like Prodigy Math where she and her friends can set up a team. We also join online museum tours and activities facilitated by authors that she knows. She’s very engaged during Q&A.”
Humans have survived for thousands of years through many crises of “pandemic” proportions because we are resilient and highly adaptable. Our children will come out of the quarantine fine as long as we parents are there to assure them everything will be okay. When our kids feel safe, they’ll feel less lonely and scared. With our support and guidance, our kids will form healthy and fulfilling relationships even through a screen, and learn to cherish these friendships even more.
About The Writer
FRANCES AMPER SALES
Frances Amper Sales is a writer for beauty, lifestyle, and parenting publications. She was the happy editor-in-chief of entertainment title, OK! Philippines, until she made the happier decision to work from home and raise her three sons with her husband, a novelist and editor. While Frances has always enjoyed her career, it was only when she began writing her parenting adventures on her blog, www.topazhorizon.com, that she felt that her writing mattered as thousands of fellow moms and working women shared how her candid and honest stories inspired them to embrace motherhood without pressure and guilt, just love.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.