How to Help Kids Stay Social While Distance Learning

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Most American students will continue to distance learn this fall when they return to school and parents might be concerned about their kids not socializing enough, but these tips can help keep them connected during the pandemic.

HuffPo spoke to parenting experts -- including clinical psychologist Laura Markham, marriage and family therapist LeNaya Smith Crawford, educational psychologist Michele Borba, and pediatrician Dr. Jack Shonkoff -- about this concern and they shared their tips and advice on how parents can help kids who are missing out on the social interactions of being in the classroom.

More: Over 100 Hand Sanitizers Are 'Dangerous' - Are You Using One of Them?

Encourage and Schedule Playdates: Even if these meetups are online, they will still be beneficial for your children. “Relationships enhance kids’ mental health,” Borba explained. “So use the virtual world to help children maintain positive peer connections.” They note that one-on-one video chats can be more helpful than a large group of kids chatting.

Make Time for Clear and Direct Communication: The stress of the coronavirus pandemic can feel overwhelming and exhausting, especially if you are working from home while your child is learning from home. You might feel like checking out at the end of the day, but maintaining healthy lines of open communication with your child is vital say the experts. “Ask your child open-ended questions, allow the conversation to flow into different topics, and be intentional about emphasizing body language,” Smith Crawford notes. “Children’s social life as they know it is gone. It’s important for them to still be able to learn and have the ins and outs of communication and conversation modeled.”

Use Video Calls to Help Kids Learn about Social Cues and Emotions: The experts explain that a video chat with a family member or friend can help your young ones continue to learn about social cues and emotions. “You can prime your child ahead of the call,” Borba told HuffPo. “Watch Grandma’s face for signs that she might be tired so you’ll know if you should say good-bye,” or “Tune in a bit closer to your friend to see if he agrees with you.″

More: The Doctors' 10 Favorite Face Masks for Kids

Get a "Study Buddy": The experts say having another classmate to study subjects like spelling, math, and vocabulary can benefit their learning and help to keep them social and connected

Make Time for Team Building: HuffPo says with group sports on hold, kids are not getting the opportunity to learn about working together, following rules, and treating others fairly like they might in a sports setting. The experts say activities like family game night -- where you play by the rules, complete the game and congratulate the winner -- can help to fill in these gaps.

Have Kids Help with Family Projects and Tasks: Adding to the team building idea, a great way to help little ones develop their social skills is by making them part of a group project. “Plan home projects that encourage teamwork like cleaning a closet, planning a menu together, learning a family hobby, filling a box of gently used toys to give to needy kids or a shelter, or just playing a game,” Borba explains. “But make sure you model and encourage those timeless teamwork comments, like ‘Good job!’, ‘We did it,’ ‘High five!’”

More: Is Boosting Your Immunity Against COVID-19 Even Possible?

Don't Shy Away from Feedback in the Moment: The experts say quick feedback can help kids better understand social rules and norms, like interrupting for example. “Being able to pause a social interaction, give some feedback and then redo the interaction allows the child to become aware of blind spots and also allows them to begin again and have a better framework socially, the next time a similar situation arises,” Smith Crawford explain to HuffPo.

Is your child returning to the classroom this fall? Find out what our expert, infectious disease expert Dr. Ravina Kullar, has to say about some schools reopening and whether she thinks it is safe, in the video below.

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Playing Coronavirus: Should Schools Reopen in the Fall?


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