In the preteen and teenage years, friendships begin to develop and become of increased importance in a child’s life. Friends are often picked over Mom and Dad, and sometimes what friends are doing is the most important factor in decision making. Developing deeper friendships and learning social cues are important aspects of developing budding personalities. It can sometimes make parents feel like they are no longer needed when children begin to prefer the company of their friends over their family, but parents are still integral in helping guide through the murky social waters. In any scenario, it is important to help you tween cope if they are feeling isolated.
Children and teens whose lives revolve around social interaction with their peers were thrown a curveball when schools throughout the country transitioned to virtual learning. Gone were the days of crowded lunchrooms, locker gossip and passing notes in class. Students were sent home to learn alongside their parents and siblings in an otherwise isolated environment. Their daily interactions with friends at school and in extracurricular activities came to a screeching halt.
For many “quaran-teens,” the isolation and separation from peers has been devastating. At a point in development where friendships are of central importance, being away from them can be difficult.
Parents, you can help your tween cope and stay connected with friends through various means. Although they are not physically together, there are many ways to enrich friendships. Using technology such as Zoom, FaceTime or Skype allows them to still have a face to face conversation with one or more of their friends at a time. Many children are opting to connect visually through apps such as Instagram, Tik Tok or Snapchat. Other forms of communication such as telephone, email and text help keep connections fresh. Some children have opted to send letters and care packages to their friends as a way of keeping the relationship exciting and uplifting. Just because we are physically distanced does not mean we have to be emotionally distanced. (As with all social and video connections, parental monitoring is key and highly recommended. Each child is different, so allow what is best for your child and family.)
Parents can help their kids by providing access to whatever levels of communication they are comfortable with and discussing proper usage with their children. Parents can also help children not feel alone by taking advantage of the time spent at home and doing quality activities with their children. This can include talking to them about what is going on in the world, their feelings or even sharing funny stories or jokes. Kids can engage with parents and siblings by playing card games, board games or engaging in hands-on projects like tie-dye or hydro dipping.
If you are concerned that your child may be suffering, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. There are many options for virtual visits as well as video and asynchronous text therapy if face to face counseling is not available. This has been a difficult season for many people, and children are not immune to the detrimental side effects of social isolation. Humans are social creatures that crave connection with others. Learning to cope with a new reality means learning some resiliency skills that most people have not had to face before. Through proper communication both within and outside of families, the “quaran-teen” generation will make it through and be stronger for the experience of having to adapt to a major world event.
SOME WAYS TO HELP KIDS CONNECT
1. Set up Zoom parties
2. Have them collect addresses of friends or cousins, and create pen-pals
3. Allow for time to play virtual games with friends via online (with proper monitoring of course)
4. Do drive-by social times
5. Do virtual band sessions