By Dr. Jenna Del Valle

Now more than ever it is vital to our mental and emotional health to stay connected with others. It is easy to isolate or feel isolated from others as we continue to practice social distancing for the time being. So what can we do? One good thing that most people have access to is technology. It’s important that we, including our children, stay connected with friends, family, and neighbors. Lately, I have been hearing that school aged kids are disconnected from their peers, and feeling lonely and upset. Some children may be having classroom zoom meetings, which is great, but what is lacking is the peer interactions that they would be receiving during recess or after-school programs. Even though it is not the same as meeting up for a play date, having frequent video chats with friends will be important in maintaining some level of peer support. It will be a great way for kids to process how they have handled changes, share ideas on creativity, and even play games.

We don’t want to have our kids’ social skills regress, especially for the ones who already struggle with socializing and maintaining peer connections. Another concern is adjusting back in to a social environment. If you know your child has difficulty with socializing or adjusting, it may be even more important for them to continue to practice the skills they have attained.

I highly recommend that parents encourage and support their child in staying connected. One hurdle that has come up is having access to the contact information of other parents with children. If you are lacking contact information, perhaps reaching out to your child’s teacher to see if there is a way that parents can connect with each other to support their child’s peer connection. Or possibly reaching out to other online parent communities and setting up safe ways that children can join online social groups. There are also virtual summer camps open for enrollment such cooking and robotics camp.

As the weeks roll by, I am rather impressed at how creative and supportive our communities have been throughout this difficult time, and especially towards children. Going outside for a walk, I see several side walk chalk inspiring images, phrases, and even games such as hopscotch that are created by the neighborhood kids for other kids. Many neighborhoods have started putting a stuffed animal in their window as a way to make family walks more fun for children; this has now turned into a game of “How many stuffed animals can you spot on your walk?” The community is there, it just has to be accessed. If you want more information on how to support your child during this time or if your child is in need of social or emotional support contact Dr. Jenna Del Valle for child therapy services.

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