How To Help Kids Stay Connected During COVID-19

Boys making funny faces.

This COVID-19 thing is taking a long time. Not that we didn’t expect it to, but still. COVID-19 is a nasty virus and it’s going to continue to be a problem for us for quite some time. Many of us are worried about our kids and how they are doing as the days of isolation drag on. But there are things we can do, and some exciting new science to help.

Some kids are doing just fine. They have adjusted easily to life at home with one or more parent around, and are finding ways to stay entertained. Some have become better friends and playmates with siblings. But still, they miss their friends.

Other kids had a rough start with converting to E-learning for school and all the time at home. But eventually, they came around too. Many parents are proudly telling me about the new skills their kids have learned during lockdown for coronavirus. Like cooking. Or my kids actually learned how to clean a toilet!!

How Can My Child Stay Connected During COVID-19? Is your child lonely? Loneliness is a struggle the longer we stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. But there is some new science that can give parents ideas to help. A pediatrician shares her ideas on how to keep your child connected during COVID-19. #parentingtips #parenting #COVID #loneliness

Parents who have desperately hoped their kids would learn to play more independently are delighted that their kids have finally figured this out. I am one of them. My extroverted son has always looked for playmates and if none are available, that meant bugging me. But now, he can play with his toys for hours, making up elaborate stories. Finally!

But other kids are really hating this. They miss being around friends and having a chance to run around with their sports teams. Especially the sports teams, which were their biggest outlet of all.

And let’s not forget the way so many teenagers have completely shifted onto night shift. Their parents throw up their hands helplessly, while their kids sleep all day and stay up all night online with their friends. What are we supposed to do? Don’t they need social time?

Of course, the parents of kids under five may have it the hardest. Especially in households where they are both working from home full time. Yikes!

Social distancing is hard.

Social distancing is hard, but it’s still necessary.

The fact that we are tired of this does not change the reality of how bad COVID is. We still need to stay apart, and that means I can’t let my son go hang out on his friend’s driveway. Because despite promises to stay apart, the kids keep getting close to each other.

Will new evidence show that it is alright to let them play basketball with their friends outside after stay-at-home orders in my area lift? Maybe, but I need to see that data before I let them out. And that is really hard.

But there is good news. Recent research has a lot to say about ways to manage our social needs without being physically together.

Try virtual playdates, but only if there is eye contact.

One of them is by making virtual eye contact. I mean FaceTime or other video calls. That’s because scientists have shown that when we see each other online and feel that direct eye contact, it creates the same good feelings as real eye contact. Virtual eye contact actually sends a message to our nervous system that makes us feel genuinely connected.

Scientists have studied eye contact and they found that the right kind of virtual eye contact is as good as the real thing. That means it helps us feel connected and sends the right message to our nervous system. Especially during the loneliness of COVID-19, this is something we all need. Read about how to do virtual eye contact in the way that actually works. #COVID19 #research #loneliness #wellbeing #mentalhealthtips

But it only works on a ‘bidirectional video call.’ Skype, Zoom and other platforms like it don’t help because of the way the camera is set up. It doesn’t feel like the other person is really looking at us.

I have found that the virtual playdates, short as they seem to be with boys, really do help my sons. You can read more about the science of eye contact in my article for Forbes about it.

We can fill our social fuel tank without other people.

In one of the more interesting studies I’ve seen lately, researchers wanted to know if ‘nontraditional’ activities could make us feel socially fulfilled. They came up with the idea of a social fuel tank, and studied what people did that made them feel like it was full.

No surprise here: time with friends filled the tank. But so did so-called guilty pleasures like binge-watching a favorite show or eating comfort food. No wonder we are all complaining about the COVID-19 nineteen, pounds that is. We are all filling our social needs with food. Confession: I am hitting the dark chocolate way more than usual.

There were a lot of interesting ways people could meet their social needs alone, and I wrote all about it for Forbes. Read that article here.

So hang in there everyone. And remember to be careful with yourselves and your kids even when lockdown orders are lifted. Masks and staying 6 feet apart really make a difference in protecting us from COVID-19.

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How Can My Child Stay Connected During COVID-19? Loneliness is a struggle the longer we stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. But there is some new science that can give parents ideas to help. A pediatrician shares her ideas on how to keep your child connected during COVID-19. #parentingtips #parenting #COVID #loneliness

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Author: Alison Escalante MD

Alison Escalante MD is a Pediatrician, TEDx Speaker, Writer and Mother on a mission to help parents caught in the culture of criticism.

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