When children are used to school, sports, extra mural activities and just hanging around with their pals, being home and away from their playmates can be hard for little people to understand. That’s why it’ll become ever more important to help kids during this time of socialising with distance with ways to keep children connected.
Social distancing is the new norm for now but can be difficult for young children to grasp because all they want to do is grasp, hug, high-five and wrestle. The NHS recommends limiting close contact with others by social distancing. However, it might be easier for children to understand it as ‘physical distancing’.
Explain it like this: let’s say a sick person sneezes. If there’s no-one around, the germs won’t have a person to land on, so being far apart during this time keeps everyone healthy. While we wait this out, here are a few ways we can be together, apart.
Whether it’s FaceTime, WhatApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts, there are several ways to stay connected to a buddy or classmate. Set up a mutually agreed upon time. The call will have to be facilitated by you because little ones will be initially engaged with their own image. But stay off screen – this is your kid’s call and their conversation. Make sure to place the call in a quiet room. There should be no television in the background, or a sibling talking over them. Throw out talking points for the callers. Maybe encourage your child to draw a picture for their friend on the other end so they have something to show and discuss.
Send a video text
We do so much of this already. Children in the mobile phone age are so used to being videotaped. As we are all too familiar, when a child knows they are being taped, they might not act as natural. Try to capture moments that are more impromptu. As your child kicks the soccer ball around the yard, say “how about we share this with your teammate Kevin?” Shoot it off to Kevin’s dad and before you know it, you’ll receive message back of Kevin doing a similar activity. Smiles abound.
Host a virtual lunchbreak
Set up a virtual lunchroom through a conferencing app. Grab a handful of buddies around their regularly scheduled school lunch time and meet up. The familiar faces with delight them, even if the conversation doesn’t go much past “hi…hi…hi…” They will get the hang of it eventually.
Make an old-fashioned phone call
Remember back in the day when we had to call the house phone of our friend and ask, “Hello, Mrs. So-and-so. Can I speak to Sarah?” How about we teach kids to place a phone call. Make sure children say hello, identify themselves, and then says good-bye. Keep conversations short. Maybe begin your first few calls with nanna or grandpa so they understand the rhythm.
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Write a letter
Who doesn’t love getting snail mail? Encourage your children to write to their friends. There are five parts to a friendly letter: date, greeting, body, closing, and signature. You might have to select the topic of the letter but ask them to think about what they usually talk about with the friend they’ve chosen to write to. (Example: my friend John loves collecting rocks. I’ll tell him about the rocks I found on my walk today). Your little one might not be able to write all of it, but at the very least they can practise writing their name. Include stickers, a friendship bracelet, or some other fun surprise. We bet you get a letter in return.
Picnicking in cars
Pack a picnic lunch on a sunny day. Load everyone up into the car and drive to a park or your friend’s driveway. Park close enough to talk, but a safe distance away. Roll down the windows and shut off the car. Have lunch with friends without anyone getting out of the vehicle.
About the author:
Armed with a practical approach, Stacy Flannery shares encouraging tips and “we-are-all-in-this-together” humour for raising kids in today’s world of high expectations. Flannery, an experienced magazine editor turned mumtrepreneur, never imagined her two toughest bosses would be under three feet tall.
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