Virtual Playdates: Can They Really Help Build Social Skills?

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

When Your Tween Acts Up During Lockdown

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

Screen Time & COVID-19: How to Support Teens with ADHD

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

5 Ways To Maintain Your Child’s Social Skills During COVID19

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

Homeschooling During COVID-19

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.

Is There a Way Out of This Battle?

Read More in Today Parenting

 

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