Distance learning is no easy feat, especially for parents who have to teach their own children academic subjects. As your children adjust to online classes, they also have to adjust to learning social skills without the physical presence of their peers. These concerns are real, but there are ways to guide your child through social interactions at home. Here are nine ways to develop your child’s social skills while quarantined.
1. Encourage Taking Turns
A great way to teach your child self-control and patience is through taking turns. If this is a new concept for your child, make sure your child knows that they must take turns doing something.
For example, instead of your child choosing the bedtime story, tell them that it’s your turn to do so. This is something you can do with multiple children, as well. Set up a schedule for your children to determine who will choose the movie, game or snack for a night. Taking turns and being patient are valuable skills when they’re back at school and around other people.
2. Set Up Virtual Play Dates
During quarantine, to stay safe and healthy, it’s not recommended to get together with other people. Fortunately, with video calling, seeing other people is still possible.
There are a variety of video calling options available, so choose one that you’re familiar with. In addition to the familiar ones like FaceTime, Zoom, and Google Meet, there are also open-source and FSF approved options like Jitsi and Jami. Ask other parents to coordinate an online playdate to practice social skills. You should be part of it as well so your child can learn how to communicate effectively. If your child is taking over the conversation, guide them to let the other person talk.
3. Watch Videos About Social Skills
There are a plethora of videos online about social skills. Some are animated for younger children as well. These videos demonstrate various social skills and thoroughly explain them so your child understands.
Focus on a topic that is specific to your child. If your child needs help with looking people in the eyes, then search for that rather than searching for social skills in general.
4. Use Books
If you would rather like to get away from screens, use books to support your child’s social skills. Read stories that highlight emotions or a character improving a social skill. As a parent, you can guide your child with questions as you read.
Ask questions about how a character feels, what the character should have done differently, reading the character’s faces and so on. Picture books work best for this option in younger children. Non-illustrated books could work for older children.
5. Write Letters
Your child may find it old-fashioned, but letter writing is an excellent way to foster social interactions. The way people talk to each other today is at a faster rate. Text messages are short, and in media like Snapchat, words often aren’t even used. People don’t think about what they’re going to say as much as they used to.
Letter writing allows your child to slow down and carefully craft their words. Additionally, your child can develop new friendships to further their social skills. Find a pen-pal for your child to write.
6. Do Activities That Require Attention
A critical social skill is being able to pay attention to someone during an interaction. In a world full of screens, this social skill has diminished in younger populations. Choose activities for your family to do that require your child to pay attention to you.
Some activities that require attention include cooking meals, playing a new game, fixing a toy or cleaning a room. Encourage your child to watch you do it, or give them specific instructions to follow.
7. Hold Socially-Distanced Gatherings
If you feel safe enough to do so, and if no one is infected with COVID-19, you can hold a socially-distanced gathering outdoors. Wear masks and allow your child to see other people in person, especially if they’re not going to school in-person.
When your child can interact in-person with someone else, it will do a world of wonders for their social capabilities. Before the gathering, make sure you’re up-to-date on restrictions and hygiene recommendations.
8. Monitor Family Interactions
When meeting up with other friends isn’t possible, you can still monitor social skills at home within your family. You can use social lessons with your child’s siblings, yourself or extended family members. Take notes throughout the interaction.
Additionally, call out your child whenever they make an interaction deemed unacceptable in society but may be overlooked in your home. Encourage your child to use necessary social skills, such as saying please and thank you, sharing, maintaining eye contact and greeting others.
9. Teach Social Skills One-on-One
Without access to other people, you may think that social skills are a lost cause. However, they can be taught one-on-one. It may look different, but it is just as useful and important for their development as society members.
Here are just a few basic social skills you can teach them:
- Active Listening
- Maintaining Eye Contact
- Speaking Up
- Using Manners
- Working With Others
- Good Hygiene
One-on-one lessons will help instill these skills in your child so they’re ready to face the world once quarantine is over!
Add Social Skills Into Your Daily Routine
To fully support your child’s social skills while quarantined, add social lessons into your daily routine. With the lack of a classroom, your child is deprived of developing social skills. However, with just a bit of innovation, you can assist your child in navigating social settings.
Jennifer Landis is the founder of Mindfulness Mama, a blog where she talks about all things #momlife, marriage, mindfulness, and everything in between. A thirty-something mom of two, Jennifer spends her limited free time practicing yoga and pilates, sipping tea, and reading with her littles. You can find more from Jennifer on Twitter, @JenniferELandis.