Now is the time for parents to contemplate what fall will look like. None of us knows what to expect, but we can’t just adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Measures should be put into place this summer in preparation for a successful school year.
As a social skills coach, I suggest that parents review the social struggles that were most prevalent last year. Did your daughter make friends easily or did she eat alone at lunch? Now would be a good time to ask her if there were people she would like to get to know better. Are there clubs, sports, events etc. that interest her? Find out if enrollment is starting for the fall for the programs she likes. She can ask a friend to join, or do it alone with the plan of making new friends, maybe even from another town. Send a message to the guidance counselor or new teacher and explain her interest in making new friends. She isn’t the first to voice this concern.
If school work was an issue because of executive functioning challenges or attentional issues, reach out to the school administration and ask if you can turn things in differently, or later.
Video interactions are a great way to “play” with others, and older kids can go to the park, etc. with the understanding of distancing.
Now is also the time to create plans and infrastructure around the use of electronics as it is probable that remote learning will be here to stay.
COVID Resource – Are we becoming cruel and self-centered or just oblivious?
Let’s face it, we are in a social crisis. Socially distancing is making us exhausted and LONELY. What’s more, on a whole, we are becoming “less nice. Bullying, cruelty and insensitivity may actually be on the rise as we shelter behind our screens. We all witness how cruelty and callousness divides a community – even if it is unintentional. Where we had seen a child burst into tears, or innately sense a rebuff, social distancing has taken away these vital, often non-verbal social exchanges.
Empathy is showing compassion, understanding another person’s experience, and walking in someone else’s shoes. Empathetic children are less likely to bully others. The ability to show empathy is a life skill- if someone in your office does not receive a promotion you are expected to read the room and hold back your joy that you were promoted, if someone’s pet passes away you are expected to express sorrow- and when someone is in distress to ignore that distress does not win friends or make you a prospect for future management roles.
Environment, genetics, social and cultural factors influence our ability to feel empathy.
Some children due to their own brain-based challenges do not read social cues, facial expressions and emotions, they don’t have the perspective or the self-awareness to see how others interpret their actions and behaviors. These children, for whatever reason, do not understand how they come across. Their intentions are good, but they don’t really know how to tune in and “walk in the other person’s shoes.”
Teaching empathy must involve not only fostering a community to promote empathy and kindness but also coaching children individually to help guide them toward greater understanding of what kind and empathetic behavior looks like by modeling empathy and reinforcing it with all actions and messages children hear so they can learn to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”
3 Tips to Teach Empathy to Your Child
Point out emotions and bring attention at the right time to the emotional experience of others and have conversations with your child about another person’s experience. In the minivan or on the go, continue to ask him questions when his conversations present as forgetting other people’s feelings. For example, What do you think is going on in your friend’s life? What did you notice about her reaction to the situation?
Collaboratively talk about your child’s behavior when he is rude or lacks empathy and ask him to interpret how his behavior made you feel. Ask your child, How do you think I feel when you correct me? What did you mean to do?
Guide children to look at what another person’s situation or point of view may be – rather than preaching to care about someone, help your child step into the shoes of his peer and ask your child questions to help him reflect on other people’s state of mind. What do other people feel? What is the reaction to their behavior? What did the other people’s facial expressions tell them about their feelings?
Some children naturally begin to demonstrate empathy as early as 12 months old; others struggle for whatever reason and may demonstrate rude and hurtful behavior. But the ability to understand other people’s emotions and respond with kindness is a life skill essential to help children be part of any group throughout their lives.
Who knew playing at the playground, running on the soccer field or summer camp would be taken for granted?
Adults have an easier time staying connected to friends, but kids need to keep in touch just as much, if not more than we do.
There are many ways to keep your young one social and active with friends while on lockdown. They can continue to build on the social skills strategies that you’ve been building on over the last several months.
Ways to make virtual playdate a success –
Determine the social struggle – Ask yourself what your child tends to struggle with during play, such as joining in, sharing, managing emotions, becoming overly excited with a friend, being too bossy, or being too grumpy.
Collaborate on the plan – Make it clear to your child that her mission for the virtual playdate is to practice that skill. For example, work on how your child talks with other children, review what you might say and what to do, role-play, and practice how a conversation might go if done virtually. Practice with family members first, and then when it comes time, help her join in with her friends.
Pick the right playmate – Temperament of the playmate is important when practicing social behaviors. A virtual environment can be more difficult than an in-person playdate, and to . Compatibility does not necessarily mean putting two like-minded children together. For example, two overly bossy, rule-oriented children might argue and a domineering child might overshadow a shy child.
Choose the activities – Think about what games and activities might work well in a virtual environment in an effort to stay connected. Younger kids may not have the vocabulary or the ability to hold a long conversation, but interactive activities can be just the right mix of fun and entertainment.
Games and Activities for virtual playdates –
Scavenger hunt – once online, agree on a list of things they can hunt for while on a daily walk with their parents or siblings. Right now, there are many neighborhoods putting rainbows, bears, and other creative items in their windows. Have them find and take a picture of someone’s sidewalk chalk art, hunt for a certain type of leaf or bug or count how many butterflies cross their path. The options are endless. When the hunt is over, the kids can regroup and compare notes on their next interactive virtual playdate.
HedBanz, Pictionary or Charades – These can easily be played virtually.
Storybooks – Younger kids can take turns reading to a friend. Kids can talk about characters, plot and why it’s a favorite.
Crafts – Set up your virtual playdate at the dining room table with supplies. Kids can talk and draw together. Have a show and tell at the end of the playdate.
Pen pals – How fun would it be to stay connected by sending a friend a handwritten letter? Make it fun by including a drawing or adding one of your favorite stickers to share.
Debriefs are important
Children learn by reflecting on what they are doing and how it impacts others. The more you engage with you child, in a nonjudgmental way after the playdate is over, the better. Chat about what they did well and celebrate their effort. I heard you tell Julie what to do and what game to play. What do you think Julie felt when you told her what to choose? What choices did Julie get to make? What choices did you get to make? Let’s look at whether or not that was fair together. Then also ask your child what they struggled with and make a plan and practice for the future.
Kids can learn that even though they have to distance themselves right now, they don’t have to forget about the ties they have to their friends.
My stuck-at-home 11-year-old spends her off-school hours on the online game platform Roblox. As screen time goes, it’s a pretty safe, kid-friendly and creative option, since with parental controls I’m able to lock down her privacy (that means no chats, ever).
But she resists screen time limits, argues about getting off Roblox to do chores and tries to push her bedtime later every night. She is worried about not being able to go back to sleep-away camp this summer. And annoyed that she can only FaceTime her friends, instead of seeing them in real life.
I get it. Her reaction is understandable, considering the fraught times we are living in.
But when she gets disrespectful, I can’t go to my usual set of consequences like threatening that she won’t be allowed to attend a friend’s birthday party, or being sent to her room (which is now her sanctuary). All the usual punishments are off the table when everyone is already essentially grounded.
Following are some experts’ suggestions on how to handle conflicts with tweens during lockdown.
Connecting with others is essential, and that is especially true for teenagers with ADHD during this unprecedented COVID-19 quarantine. Most teenagers with ADHD, however, spend too much time on electronics, so it is necessary—now more than ever—for parents to engage them in collaborative discussions that lay out expectations.
You can use this time—when most of the rules about screen-time limits and appropriate hours for waking and sleeping have gone out the window—to help your teenager practice self-regulation. Soon they will be out on their own, with no parental limits. Learning to coauthor their own limits will help them in the not-too-distant college environment.
Due to COVID-19, government and medical professionals are urging us to stay physically distant and avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. Although parents are being asked to promote physical distance outside of the family, helping children develop social skills is still possible. As busy people, we don’t always make the time to connect with others in our immediate households—social distancing is the perfect time to do this, no?
Parents did not choose to homeschool. Many of us are working from home for the first time and some of us have lost jobs—and now with this heightened sense of anxiety, we are expected to teach our children?
You’ve prepared for this challenge by purchasing planning calendars, organizing the workspace, and successfully logging onto Zoom and installing a kid-friendly backdrop. Unfortunately, your child is not interested in this type of schooling. Your gut tells you that he is under pressure, in pain, and that no amount of cajoling is going to help—he seems to be struggling and can’t manage the different classes, worksheet packets and endless stream of tests and quizzes that are being thrown at him from every direction. “I don’t want to do it anymore. Can’t we just go back to school like normal?” Your heart breaks hearing these words, but that’s not in our immediate future.
Sign up with your email address to receive my free Play Better Plan Mini-Course, a checklist that can help you determine if your child is a candidate for social skills help, monthly summaries of my #AskCoachCaroline Facebook Live Chat, other news and more.