Every time I hear the term social distancing, I get a little sad. The term itself is loaded. Be at least six feet away, avoid large crowds, abandon restaurants, concerts, shows, and even playdates. I know how important this is as we have learned how being apart can slow down this virus, prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed, allow for fewer people to get sick and save lives. This is all very real and very immediate.
I also cannot help but think about the implications this has on parents, people who work with children and most importantly children themselves. Kids crave social interaction. They need to be around others, develop friendships, and be in a group. Young people thrive when they feel known and connected. All any of us want is a sense of belonging.
What happens when we almost completely halt children’s social lives? For every kid, this will look different. Some may be irritable, withdrawn, or sad. Some may seem to go on as normal and virtually seem no different. Other kids may prefer times like this because socialization is hard and stressful. Most likely, kids will experience a range of emotions and exhibit a range of behaviors. It is of course important that every family figures out the best plan for their children and speaks to their pediatrician if they have specific concerns.
As Elmwood families and staff know, an Elmwood summer is about being social and together. We believe that when children and staff are together it creates enormous opportunities for us to learn how to accept ourselves and others, form meaningful friendships, and learn what it means to be in a group. This is at the core of the Elmwood experience. We are very excited to all be together on opening day which is just 104 days away!
Till then, here are a few ideas to help ease the burden of social distancing.
Phone Calls! Who talks on the phone anymore? We text, email, Gchat, and Facebook Message. Take this time to encourage your kids to talk on the phone. Call friends, grandparents and other relatives. Before making calls, talk with your kids about questions you can ask the other person, funny stories to share, and jokes to tell. Think about how exciting it is when your child’s friend gets a call and then your child gets a call back! There is an art to talking to on the phone. Maybe in this time of quarantine, children can get a flavor of what we all grew up with. Of course, Facetime and Skype are great too.
Virtual Playdates! With the advent of Zoom, Facetime and Skype, try a virtual playdate. Get 2-3 kids together and let them share in a craft, building blocks, dressing up, doing an experiment, or playing a board game together. Sure, it may be a little strange at the start, but that is the fun of it.
Write Letters…Actual Letters! Spend time with your kids writing letters to those they care about. Encourage them to share their feelings. Let them know that writing, “I miss you” is OK. Come up with fun ideas to put in the letter. Include a photograph, some artwork, or maybe even a burst of sparkles! If your children are not yet writing, pictures are worth a thousand words!
A Shareable Journal. One of the joys of social interaction is sharing the details of our daily lives with friends. This does not have to stop. Each day, have your kids fill a page of what happened. When everyone is all together, the kids can share these journals with each other.
Family Time. We all say we wish we had more family time. Families are children’s first social group. Before we know it, these challenging days will be behind us. Let’s not look back and say we wasted these days! We are all more stressed than we were a few weeks ago. Let us find solace within our family. Take time for games, crafts, long walks, playing catch, cooking together and having extended meals together. Our own families can provide exactly what children need: time to connect with people who love and care for them. As parents, we are all experts at that!