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.
Read more about Social Skills development
and COVID resources
Some kids learn easily how to navigate any social event and other kids do not. As a parent, you are her original teacher and you are with her day in and day out, so you can help her practice her social skills in daily life.
Consider the opportunities in daily life such as standing on the sidelines at a soccer game, playing in the park, shopping in box stores and malls, standing in line at the grocery store, going to barbeques as a chance to be your child’s social skills coach.
10 Ways to Teach Your Child Social Skills In Daily Life:
- Help Your Child Become a Social Spy-Build your child’s awareness by teaching your child to be a social spy. The concept is that the child can to go into public with a mission to be a social spy where she will obtain specific social information. You will rehearse with your child ahead of time, so she learns to watch other people in a subtle, covert way and to listen without looking like she is listening. The idea is to observe a specific behavior so she can learn crucial information about her peers such as how they dress, what they talk about at lunch as well as to teach her how to observe and also notice other people’s behavior, mood, energy and to scan and read the room.
- Spy at a Party to Identify the Unspoken Rules-In every environment there are unspoken rules, the subtle and nuanced rules of how you are expected to behave and what is acceptable in that environment. As you take your child to different environments, practice having her enter each event to covertly spy and uncover the unspoken rules of the household. You can start by promoting her and sharing your observations then have her spy and report back. Have her notice: Is the house casual or formal? How do the members of the family treat the furniture? Are they tidy, messy, do they care about organizing? What is important to them? Should you touch items in the house or keep your hands to yourself?
- Take a Box Store Field Trip-Take a field trip with your child to a public place like a mall, a box store, a large shopping plaza and spy on shoppers and workers in the stores. Have your child spy to notice social verbal and nonverbal cues and to collect information. Notice and draw a map of all the entrances, exits, and bathrooms. How many are there? Do employees wear uniforms? What do the uniforms tell you about who is doing what job? Based on what you observe who is in charge in this store? Who is in charge but does not wear a manager tag? Who is the grumpy employee? What verbal and nonverbal cues tell you how someone feels? Who is in a hurry? What social cues tell you they are in a hurry?
- Read the Mood at a Party or On The Playground-At an event with friends and family or while you are playing on the playground- prompt your child to pick out two people in her family to observe and then to report back what their facial expressions, body language and tone of voice are when they are angry, frustrated, nervous or frightened. Continue to spy on people’s mood throughout the event and ask your child how he should adapt his behavior based on the other person’s mood.
- Create an Inventory of People at the Party-Learning who someone is and predicting what they will do comes from stepping into their shoes and noticing a million little details about that person. Help your child learn to predict what motivates people, how they will react to information by playing a game with your child at a party. Before the party, prompt your child to privately collect information during the party to create an inventory of 2 specific people in your life by spying on them and gathering information to answer the questions about their interests, personality, and preferences.
- Teach Your Child to Engage in a “Polite Pretend”-The ability to fake interest or happiness and to be polite even when your child is hungry, tired or bored is what I call a polite pretend. Begin by asking him some open-ended questions, what do you think your friend felt about your behavior? How do other people feel about how you treated them? What behavior does the situation call for? This will help your child think about his actions and why performing a polite pretend may be necessary rather than hurting other people’s feelings.
- Practice Building Small Talk-Taking a conversation from saying hello to a full-fledged conversation is hard for some children and teens but it is a life skill. Before a social event teach your child these steps so she can consider how to start and move a conversation forward. First consider how the person and situation is similar or different from someone else she knows; consider what shared experiences you have had with the person. Then listen for clues about the person you are talking to or consult your social database for information about them you can use in conversation. Give your child some conversation starters such as, what have you been up to? What has this season been like? Are you taking a trip or vacation this season? Ask your child to walk around with you and start to make conversation with adults or other kids.
- Reading the Face in the Crowd-Most communication is through body language and facial expressions. At your next social event, play a game with your child. Ask him to read the faces of people at the party from afar, remind him to spy covertly not glaring or staring. Ask him to share with you discreetly what 5 people’s facial expressions alone, without words tell him about how the person is feeling.
- Teach Your Child to Learn to Approach a Group-Prior to a bbq or party, role play approaching a group with your immediate family so your child can get a sense of how to physically maneuver and so she can practice the steps to join a group. The steps are pause and scan the group, think about a similar situation from the past, figure out the group’s unspoken rules, think about who you know, consider what the people in the group are interested in, notice the social cues, body language, facial expressions of the people in the group, make eye contact with the group and initiate a friendly gesture like a smile and then approach the group.
- Gamify Reading the Context of a Situation-Context is the situation, the environment, the mood, the circumstances, and what has been going on around you. Some children struggle to pick up on the context and then to adapt their behavior to that context. At a social event ask your child to adapt his behavior to match the audience he is speaking to. Share some examples in advance, did they just get bad news? Are they hurried and busy? Are they sharing good news? Ask your child to demonstrate adapting to the context and then share it with you.
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.
Read more from Caroline in The New York Times
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.
Read more at CHADD
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?
Social skills are life skills, and connection to others is essential to mental and physical health. Helping children feel connection is possible, even without playdates and when school is out of session.
Follow these 5 tried-and-true methods of engaging with your family and helping children learn essential social skills, without an electronic device:
Read more in Mind Body Green
Play Better Book Club Training – ONLY for ADDCA Coach Academy Family Graduate Coaches
Join me June 10, 2020 at 10am EDT as I step you through the
Play Better Book Club for Parents
– designed specifically for ADDCA trained certified coaches (coaches like you whom I have trained) to help you implement, market and run the 8 session Book Club either virtually or in-person. Learn how you can help parents, clinicians and mental health experts guide children of all ages, learning challenges and emotional IQs to recognize and address social clues to build lasting friendships.
June 10, 2020 at 10am EDT
1.5 hour, via zoom (virtually)
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