The Burden Of Social Isolation:
“This lockdown has lasted really long. How will my child behave and manage when it’s time to pursue and nurture real-world friendships?”
As parents, there are many reasons for us to be worried about isolation and its prolonged effects on our children. But, let’s not forget that there’s so much we can do at home to ensure our children feel supported and loved.
Can Physical Connections Be Downplayed?
No, social interactions are very important for cognitive, social and emotional development of each and every child. It’s especially important for teens who look at their group of peers to self-assess themselves constantly.
There’s no doubt that compassion towards our fellow humans and our ability to contribute give meaning to our lives. Also important are skills like analyzing emotions, making decisions, empathizing with others, and accountability for our own actions. And such skills can only be developed in the context of healthy relationships.
In fact, as Big Tech has enveloped our lives for the past 10 years in the form of social media, as a society we’ve been confusing digital cheers for connection. We are measuring our social currency in the number of likes and hearts our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts receive. It’s time to show our children that real world connections matter.
So How Can We Not Worry?
When this pandemic will end or how it will end is not in our hands, but what is in our hands is these precious moments we can spend with our children. Instead of worrying about them missing out on connecting with peers, we can give them new experiences by teaching them essential life skills.
Coping with stress, managing personal physical and mental hygiene, negotiating and resolving conflicts with siblings, balancing online and offline lives – the list of skills a child needs to transform into a successful adult are endless.
And physical distancing doesn’t have to be a time for social isolation. We can connect with our peers, our colleagues and our loved ones. And we can take this down time to reconnect with distant cousins and family members that we would like to introduce our children to. We live as nuclear families now, meaning most often children don’t even know the names of immediate family on either the mom or dad’s side.
Communication Is Key:
When children find roots in strong familial ties, it reduces their reliance on their peers for advice and guidance on how to behave. This is especially true for teens.
A UCLA study from 2013 says that unconditional love and affection from a parent can make children emotionally happier and less anxious. And this is true, no matter what the circumstances might be.
Affirm your connection by telling your children words like “I love you” and “I’m there for you” as often as you can, and solicit their perspective by asking them questions like “How can we better parent you?”
In spite of our best efforts, there will be times when our child’s behavior won’t meet the standards that we expect. In such times, we must simply acknowledge their infractions and teach them that such mistakes are learning experiences that will help them in the future.
Show them the value of a meaningful, long lasting relationship. Develop a family ritual that will make them look forward to it every time. Sunday evening hikes, cleaning the house, calling grandma, whatever that might be, make sure it becomes a tradition, so it teaches children how your family is a unit that does cool things together.
A Time To Remember:
In the end, it’s up to us to show our children how to make the most of any situation and stay positive during the darkest of times. With our attitude and our actions, we can show that this temporary setback will not let us lose hope. There will be a time when we will meet our friends and be with them very soon.
Until then, encourage them to pick up a new skill. Encourage them to share a new recipe or a cool dance move with their friend via video or chat. Ask them how would the dog feel once they go back to school fulltime and not be home all day.
As they become closer to you, they will learn to respect your boundaries, limitations, and your moods. They will adopt a few of your quirks, and your style to get ready for the real world.
And very soon, we will be jealous when our children become self-sufficient and “too much into the world of their friends”, that we’ll find ourselves yearning for this time! Until then, let’s enjoy our time together!
Lessons From Children:
And believe it or not, children are masters of adaptation. And as parents navigating dual roles ourselves as caregivers and teachers, we must appreciate how hard our children are working through their distance learning programs. They might be facing a lot of upending too like us, some of us are moving cities, some of us are dealing with health issues, while some of us are barely making ends meet. As parents, we can also learn an important lesson from them.
Watch any child play with a Lego structure, and if it comes crashing down by accident, they’re never afraid to start all over again.