By Lindsay Ferguson, MSW
Living in and exploring our vast world is scary without an international pandemic occurring. If we add in COVID-19, it can make interacting socially seem that much more intimidating. Engaging with friends should be relaxing, easy, and uplifting. Who would have thought there would be a time when children and teens are living a life online and secluded from others?
Spending time with friends is an activity that can bring joy, reduce stress levels, and improve social skills. Prior to the pandemic, creating and nurturing friendships was simple. Now, in a world of virtual learning and quarantining, it can be hard to find the best way for your child to grow their existing friendships and create new and long-lasting relationships.
Being unable to engage face-to-face with friends could have a range of impacts on children and teens. It can affect social skills, conflict resolution skills, stress management, and even increase anxiety levels. Screen time is something most parents try to limit. But electronic devices have been the only method for children to interact with their friends throughout the pandemic.
So what is the best way to encourage your child to get out there and engage socially with peers? Here are a few tips to help youth feel more comfortable and at ease with rekindling friendships now that we are living with new normals.
- Encourage social activities: Social activities are a great way for children to meet friends who have shared interests. Encouraging your child to pick a sport, club, or activity that interests them can take the pressure off of finding things in common with friends. These activities will help grow your child’s social skills while providing them with opportunities to engage with peers.
- Provide reassurance: Getting back into the swing of spending time with friends can be intimidating. Providing reassurance to your child can be helpful. Reassure your child that they are safe and can choose their level of comfort when re-engaging with friends. Is your child worried about COVID-19 and being too close to peers? Then provide options for socially distanced activities outside. Is your child worried about germs and becoming ill? Emphasize the safety of hygiene practices like washing their hands and not touching their face with unwashed hands.
- Embrace change: Talking to your child about how things have changed can be helpful. Going through the recent pandemic has helped most children gain even more resiliency. Let your child know change is not always negative if things seem different with friends. It may also be helpful to talk to your child about their emotions toward changes and the possible benefits that can come from these differences.
Remember, we are all navigating this new normal. Be kind to yourselves as parents and caregivers. This is a new road to navigate for everyone and no one expects you to have all of the answers. If you still feel like you aren’t sure how to best support your child, Child and Family Solutions Center is here to help. Please call us at 248-851-5437 to get your child started with therapy services.