3 Ways to Boost Your Child's Social Development Post-Covid
The COVID-19 pandemic, besides bringing with it a host of massive social and economic problems, was especially devastating in its effect on people’s social lives—a full two years of living in relative isolation meant that relearning how to socialise became extremely important once the lockdowns ended.
For many children, particularly young ones for whom the pandemic was a formative stage of their childhood, the shift from isolation and social distancing back to normal levels of social interaction was a difficult transition. You may be dealing with a child who is unused to dealing with peers and non-family elders, and consequently has underdeveloped social skills.
Here are a few things you can do to ease the transition, and help them gain (or regain) those essential social skills.
1. Learning to Listen
Listening is an essential part of any mode of communication, and an important skill for children to develop to be able to become successful communicators. Young children who have gotten used to interacting only with family members over the pandemic, might need some extra guidance to learn to listen.
The habit of listening is closely linked with a child’s ability to empathise; it is by listening to their peers and elders that your child begins to learn how to understand and respect the perspectives of others. This is a very important part of communication, cooperation and building social connections.
Empathy begins in the family. To encourage it, begin a practice, first of all, of holding conversations with your child. Make sure to set aside time to talk with them, and facilitate conversations between them and any other members of the family, in your home or virtually.
👉Finding a Balance:
Once a habit of regular conversation is established, watch your child’s conversational patterns; do they tend to be shy, not willing to speak much, or are they talkative, preferring to dominate the conversation? Striking a balance here is key to helping your child develop listening skills and empathy.
The happy medium is achieved when your child is not so antisocial that they shy away from conversation. At the same time, they should not be in the habit of expecting conversations to revolve around them, or always expect negotiations to end with them getting their way.
A good way to help your child hold balanced conversations, is to teach them to direct questions towards their conversation partners. These could comprise any topic at all, whether they are general questions regarding name, interests and wellbeing, or more detailed questions, particularly with individuals they are familiar with.
Asking questions is a good way to keep the conversation going, which would be helpful if your child is socially anxious and uncomfortable making conversation. Teach them to keep in mind a list of questions they can use to further the conversation, in case they get stuck.
A habit of asking questions is equally useful for children who are used to dominating the conversation. Questions that revolve around the other person help keep the conversation balanced, teaching your child not just to talk about themselves, but to enquire about their peers and listen to them talk.
2. Building a Friend Circle
Once your child is beyond the conversation stage, a good way to put their rusty social skills to use is to help them build a friend circle of their own. Engaging with peers their own age helps children find comfortable environments to develop their social muscles, and gives them a space to hold relatable conversations.
👉Engaging in Extracurriculars:
Aside from guiding them to befriend peers from school and from your neighbourhood, a good way to expand your child’s friend circle is to enroll them in extracurricular activities.
A habit of engaging in extracurriculars is beneficial for children for many reasons, one of them being the scope for finding like-minded friends. Your child likely has a few primary interests and talents; pushing them to attend classes or workshops related to the same gives them a chance to sharpen their talents and knowledge, but also gives them the opportunity to interact with children of a similar age who share their interests.
👉Going on Playdates:
Once your child has a small circle of friends from school, classes, the neighbourhood, it is a healthy practice to allow them to have designated playtimes, scheduled playdates, sleepovers, and so on. This will help them strengthen their friendships and become more comfortable with social interaction.
3. Regulating the Use of Digital Devices
Technology, when used the right way, can be very beneficial to improving your child’s social skills. However, again, striking a balance is key.
It is common for children in middle and high school to begin exploring social media as a tool to keep in touch with friends and family, especially during the pandemic. Although it can be highly useful for the same, it is important for your child to keep in mind that social media cannot completely replace face-to-face communication. If you think your child might be overusing technology to keep up with their friend circle, encourage them to go out and meet them from time to time instead.
It is likely that your child has gotten accustomed to the excessive use of devices such as laptops, phones, tablets, and so on, due to the necessity for online classes over the lockdowns, and because of a lack of alternative entertainment when stuck at home. Spending too much time on screens, however, may be a primary cause for the deterioration of your child’s social skills. Make sure to regulate screen time for your child, and replace any excessive time spent on devices with the above-mentioned activities: holding conversations, engaging in extracurricular activities, and spending face-to face time with friends.
Nurturing your child's social skills post-Covid is crucial for their overall well-being and future success. Encouraging open communication, providing opportunities for social interactions, and promoting empathy and understanding will empower them to overcome pandemic-related challenges and thrive in a post-pandemic world. By actively supporting their social development, you can help your child regain confidence, build meaningful connections, and navigate the new normal with resilience and adaptability.