Teaching Socialization to Kids During COVID-19

For many years, socialization has been a priority in American parenting. We were taking our months-old infants to music class and story time and loving every minute of it. We were sending our toddlers to early preschool and our older kids were playing with friends or joining teams and clubs to take up their time.

 

The socialization skills we were building were healthy, but now most of these opportunities are gone due to COVID-19 and social-distancing protocols.

 

How can we teach socialization to kids during a pandemic, and what is necessary for our little ones to learn? We will answer these concerns by looking into each individual age group below:

 

Babies: Socialization Begins at Home

Baby classes like early story time and music learning are fun and beneficial, but we’re completely capable of teaching our tiniest learners everything they need from the comfort and safety of our own homes.

In fact, researchers share that in many cultures around the world, children do not see many faces outside of their own family until they reach school age, and these little ones do just fine socially.

In the early days, babies learn through interacting with parents. They study your facial expressions, your body language, and your tone of voice. They learn about emotions and how to interact with other human beings from these small teaching moments that you may not even notice as they are so common in our adult everyday lives.

 

Some proactive steps you can take to help your baby learn social skills include:

 

  • Engage in conversation even before your little one’s first word. Respond to their screeches and giggles in a friendly tone, and they will take in tons of lessons on turn taking and general interaction while you do so.
  • Sing songs. The rich language, varying tones, and natural eye contact will stimulate your little one’s mind and encourage heaps of social-emotional learning.
  • Talk to others in front of your baby. If you live with others, simply speaking to members of your household in your baby’s presence will introduce them to the social skills they will naturally begin using within the next couple of years.

Toddlers and Preschoolers: Teaching Right vs. Wrong

 

Once your child reaches the 2-5 age range, they are learning a bit more from socialization than what naturally occurs at home. However, you can use a bit of creativity to emulate these interactions within your own home.

Researchers have found that the biggest lesson that comes from teaching socialization to kids at this age is moral reasoning. They are learning right from wrong and how their actions affect the people around them.

You can create this learning at home by:

  • Encouraging sibling play. If you have more than one child at home, they are already learning these same social skills by playing with and living with their siblings. Encourage pretend play, board games, and play that can happen without much adult intervention. When disagreements arise, your kids will be building social skills as they work them out together.
  • Read stories together. Books are filled with social situations, and by pausing to discuss the dilemma as it occurs on the page, you can teach your little one the social skills that are necessary to overcome the issue, too.
  • Talk about friends and family. Even if you cannot see other people in person, you can talk to your child about them, how they are doing, what they have been up to, etc. If your child is old enough, they could video chat with friends or family members. The CDC also suggests sending letters or pictures in the mail for a bit of COVID-safe socialization practice.

Big Kids: It is Time to Get Creative

Our oldest children are the ones who feel the social isolation the most. They went from going to school and playing with friends every day all day, to spending most of their time at home. Their social skills are a bit easier to build since they have the basics down and they will be naturally inclined to get creative with socializing through video chat, online games, pen pals, and more.

However, you may need to help encourage these socialization practices to ensure your child is not experiencing too much loneliness at home. The Mayo clinic suggests having regular check-in times throughout the week to see how your child is doing, and helping to schedule Zoom parties, letter exchanges, or other safe, social interactions whenever possible.

This pandemic is hard on all of us, and our kids are not exempt from feeling its effects. However, with a bit of thoughtfulness, we can support their socialization needs while we continue to stay safe at home. Try out some of the tips listed above and remember — our kids will be ok. They are extremely resilient.