Virtual relationships will be cultivated this school year.
Our children are preparing for a new school year. Kind of. Maybe. Well, perhaps. Who knows right now? Anybody’s guess, I suppose. Every state, every district, every school seems to have their own “plan”. It is the great human experiment, with no one leading the investigation.
Just the same, our school-age kids are developing their social health. Whether they attend school virtually, IRL, or both, they continue to hone in on their social skills. Due to the decrease in personal interaction, these opportunities are far and few between.
Kids are learning a new kind of social interaction: Virtual.
As perplexing as it is learning to guide our kids through virtual relationship-building, it is merely one more way in which we can broaden our children’s relationship skills. It may be new to us, but it is clearly going to be the norm for this generation of kids. We must help prepare our kids for this new, unanticipated future.
As adults, we will have to use our creativity and resources to help make this happen the best we can. We are writing the rules as we go. I have every confidence that we adults can figure this out. Conversely, this may be one instance in which our kids may help us navigate these uncharted waters! In fact, weren’t we complaining about a year ago how our kids were spending too much time…online? Virtual lifestyles have already been seeping into our culture and our kids have been leading the charge.
Many parents are pushing back on virtual learning because, well, it’s different. They are concerned about their child’s social learning and social skills. Schools provide an environment in which kids learn social mores. However, we are in extraordinary circumstances, and we must embrace this new reality as we adjust to a new normal. No doubt, it is stressful. But remember, we are the ones leading by example. We just have to roll with it. You know, model resilience.
Developing Healthy Virtual Friendships
However, we do want to make sure our kids develop healthy relationships. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- To practice interactions, encourage your kids to actively engage in family Zoom conversations. If you must, tell Auntie or Grandma to ask probing questions of your child to spark engagement. (Trust me, they will love it.) And please, let your child talk: No need to expand on their thoughts with your own opinion.
- Friendships will morph and alter in ways we have not seen before. Kids can engage with one another via Zoom or FaceTime. They can even play games together and have study-groups virtually.
- Depending on your community, positivity rates, and underlying risk factors, perhaps one or two friends can gather in small socially-distant, mask-wearing visits. Encourage walks (using health protocol) around the block with their friends to maintain physical health, too.
- Together plan their–and your–social activities to ensure everyone stays well.
- Finally, talk to your kids about how they are feeling. Sharing our emotions, especially of loneliness and disappointment, helps us feel a little less, well, alone.
We must stay physically healthy. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance. The virus does not care that “normal” will never be “normal” again. But you can ensure that your kids develop normally: physically, socially, and mentally.