Category: Friendship

February 9, 2022 by Jennifer Mañón 0 Comments

Five Authentic Ways To Celebrate Valentine’s Day With Young Children

How do we proclaim our love for one another? 

On February 14, the pressure is on to figure that out — and for some people (young and old), this can be stressful. How do I put what I feel into words? How do I find the perfect gift to symbolize my complex feelings? What’s a meaningful way to show my feelings? 

As we consider how Valentine’s Day can feel for adults, many parents and educators wonder how we might recalibrate this holiday for young children. After all, love is an important feeling; we want to help our children identify love and show love to family and friends — but we want to teach about love in a way that can support children’s developing social and emotional skills. 

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, store shelves are lined with every possible pink and red heart-shaped candy, plus boxes of pre-made cards where parents can fill in each name from the class list. Leaving the very valid health concerns to a separate listicle, many parents and educators wonder: What’s the point and what’s the effect of the candy and canned message approach to Valentine’s Day? Most children certainly love to receive sweet treats, but do they actually show (and build) love and companionship? 

Valentine's Day
Love and Kindness Happens in the Every Day

As an early childhood teacher and mother, my focus has been capturing authentic expressions of love and recognizing the moments when these neural pathways are forging, rather than focusing on one day on the calendar when we’re supposed to celebrate love. 

It is often in the day-to-day that authentic expressions of love occur: When we’re reading together, helping our friends on the playground, sharing something we learned over lunch. 

So how do we highlight loving interactions and create more opportunities for them that foster social emotional growth in a meaningful way — on Valentine’s Day and on the other 364 days of the calendar? 

Five Authentic Ways to Celebrate Love that Teach Social and Emotional Skills to Young Children

Here are five ideas I’ve used as a mother and a teacher, which can be carried out by families as well as in a classroom setting:

1. BE THE NARRATOR

Caring moments are around us all the time. The key is to notice them and say them aloud. Think of yourself as the narrator of a child’s loving moments and be on the lookout for everyday expressions of love. Verbalizing and reflecting back acts of love increases our awareness of them as they occur as well as how they feel. 

If you want to take your narration to the next level, you can create your own “love story” together. This can be a book very simply made by binding a few pieces of paper together by stapling or perhaps using a hole puncher and yarn. The title could be ‘I love you’ or whatever suits the author and recipient! Let’s imagine it is a book from a mother to her 3-year-old son: “Mommy loves you” (title page), “I love when you give me hugs” (page 1), “I love reading with you” (page 2), “I love holding your hand” (page 3). You can give this little book to a child and perhaps they would like to add some color to the pages with you! (This is totally optional; your child’s contributions should be natural and unforced.) They can have this book to read any time as a reminder of your love. In classrooms, teachers can help facilitate creating love stories! 

A simple question such as, “Who do you love?” can be just the right prompt to invite children to think about their love for parents, pets, siblings, trees, etc. Teachers can write students’ words onto the pages of the book and children can be invited to add their own illustrations.

2. SET THE SCENE

Many children enjoy drawing and will often draw pictures saying “This is for Mama” or “This is for my Nanna.” Dedicate a table for these authentic love notes by setting out envelopes, paper (doily paper can be fun!), stamps, stickers, crayons, or anything else you might have on hand! Allowing materials to be varied as opposed to Valentine’s themed will allow richer artistic expression and more organic creations. A caregiver or teacher can sit with the children and offer language to go along with their work, such as “You are really thinking about mommy when drawing that picture. Mommy loves you so much!” or “I noticed you are using blue on your drawing for Papa, would you like to give it to him in an envelope?” or “You are putting so many stamps on Mama’s paper. You must love her so much!” 

3. WIRED FOR LOVE

Part of creating the neural pathways for social-emotional development is through thinking about and recognizing feelings. This cognitive-emotional wiring is fostered by thinking about feelings as they are happening as well as reflecting on them afterward. 

One way to “wire up” for social and emotional development is by creating a feelings board.  Use whatever materials you have on hand: a large piece of cardboard, felt, or fabric can be the backdrop. Create a simple face drawing of each emotion: happy, sad, angry, tired, frustrated/grumpy, surprised. Cut them out and place each one along the top of the board and draw columns for each one. Give each child a way to sign up for the emotion they are feeling at any given moment. Perhaps this is done by having a cutout of each child’s name or by using a small photo of them and then using tape or a magnet if it is a magnet board, or by using felt names that will stick to fabric/felt boards. As children engage with selecting their emotions, grown-ups can offer language. Perhaps Sandra receives a hug from a friend and then proceeds to sign up under the “happy” face. Sandra’s teacher can  increase her awareness by describing that event: “Sandra, when you got a hug from your friend, that made you feel happy.” Another example could be that Sandra’s block structure gets knocked down and then she goes and puts her name under the “angry” face. Her teacher can reflect back: “You are feeling angry about the block structure falling. I wonder what we could do about it to help you feel okay again?”

Feelings Felt Board
4. PEER LOVE

The “golden rule” has evolved and now it is more powerful to treat others as they wish to be treated. That means we need to become more aware of other people’s preferences and what feels good to them. Most children are keen to hone this skill! They often make observations about their peers such as which belongings are theirs (shoes, jackets, water bottles, stuffies, etc.!), recognizing the parents and family members of friends, and noticing what classmates like and do not like. Teachers and parents can use “narration” to highlight when we see children make connections with peers.

For Example: Tanya hears Holly say she is thirsty. Tanya gets Holly’s water bottle (having observed which one is hers) and brings it to her.  Teacher says: “Tanya, you heard that Holly was thirsty and brought her water over to her! It looks like Holly is really drinking that water!”

For Example: A child trips and falls down. His sister comes over and begins to rub his back gently. The parent can highlight this by saying something like “Suzie, you noticed that Nigel fell. Did you come to check on him? I wonder if Nigel is OK? Suzie you are really taking care of Nigel and giving him a gentle rub on his back.” 

Parents and educators can prompt peers to interact with each other by creating opportunities for working together, share, and show their feelings. Here are two prompts to get you started — but many other activities would work, too:  

  • Valentine’s colors with Playdough. Make red colored playdough and offer it with red, pink, and white pipe cleaner, cut down to about half the length. Perhaps offer some small plates or cupcake liners for children to set their creations in. Children will often work with playdough and then offer it to someone (a caregiver or parent). Remind children that they can offer playdough creations to their peers as well. For example, a teacher or parent can say: “Luis, thank you so much for this yummy (playdough) cake. I wonder if Mica would like a piece. Shall we ask her?” This can spark connections between children and also show how we ask first what the other person would like.
  • “Taking care of others” idea-share. Sit with children and think about the feelings of others. Choose a question such as “What can we do when someone feels sad?” or “What makes someone feel happy?” Write children’s responses to these questions on a presentation board with sketches for visuals to go along with each idea. This is a helpful way to hear a range of ideas about what influences the emotions of our peers and offers children ideas about what they can do to interact. Keep the board handy for reference and to continue adding more ideas!
5. SELF-LOVE

We all need to remember this one all year long, and especially around Valentine’s Day! Some might feel that this is a selfish idea, however, if we remember to take care of ourselves we will increase our capacity to care for others. How can we teach this idea starting at a young age? Much of it starts with noticing what our children respond to and how we can nurture their emotional wellbeing. Here are a few ideas for how to teach self love:

  • Nurture autonomy.Give children space to spend time independently playing and exploring without interruption. Valuing the importance of this solo time is a way of showing children that they can be their own loving companion! When children are very young, this time might be quite brief. Parents/teachers should be prepared to engage with them again when they are ready.
  • Create cozy places. Create a cozy place where children can go when they would like some solo space. This is a place for children to go of their own choosing! The Cozy Space can be designed to engage the senses in a calming way, which could include sensory bottles, squishies, scented items, visuals of nature and soft pillows to make it comfortable!
  • Day-to-day self-love. Describe how children are caring for themselves when they are eating healthy food. Bathrooming and bathing are also important ways we take care of ourselves which are pivotal at this time in children’s lives. We can cheer children on by saying things such as: “You are really taking care of your body by washing with soap!” Even nap time and night time sleep are ways they take care of their growing bodies, allowing themselves to rejuvenate for more play and learning later!

Valentine’s Day can certainly serve as a catapult to refresh and renew our intentions around love. As a teacher, I have noticed how children embrace the chance to show care for each other when creating these opportunities in the classroom. 

Children also help us to see love and remind us that it is all around us. When my daughter was 3 years old, one day she gently put her pointer finger right between my eyes on what can be referred to as the 3rd eye and said, “love lives here mommy” — love lives in our eyes, our voices and is in our hands to pass along!

January 10, 2022 by Dana Stewart 0 Comments

COVID’s Impact on Social and Emotional Learning — And How We Can Help Kids Thrive

Dana and Georgia
The author walking with her daughter

As an early childhood educator and mother of a young child, I am acutely aware of the challenges educators and families have faced over the last 22 months. 

My daughter was born about a month before we all went into lockdown in March 2020. As we near her second birthday, it’s hard to believe distancing, face masks, separation from friends and family, and uncertainty have been the norm for her entire life. 

It’s unfathomable to think that more than more than 167,000 (roughly 1 in 450) U.S. children have lost a parent or grandparent caregiver to the virus (source). 

As parents and educators, we need to consider the impact this “new normal” is having on our individual children and on society as a whole, especially since we know how important the first three years of life are in children’s development (source). And we need to think about what we can do to support young children, even as they face today’s challenges. 

COVID’s Impact on Children’s Social and Emotional Learning

There’s been a lot written about “learning loss” in the older grades (source) (source), but there’s also a growing body of reports and research assessing the impact of the pandemic on children’s mental wellness and social-emotional learning. 

Last month, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy released a youth mental health advisory. He wrote: “Supporting the mental health of children and youth will require a whole-of-society effort to address longstanding challenges, strengthen the resilience of young people, support their families and communities, and mitigate the pandemic’s mental health impacts.” 

A recent study from Columbia University and published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that that babies born in the first year of the pandemic, between March and December 2020 scored slightly lower on the Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) at 6 months of age than children born before the pandemic began. 

“We were surprised to find absolutely no signal suggesting that exposure to COVID while in utero was linked to neurodevelopmental deficits. Rather, being in the womb of a mother experiencing the pandemic was associated with slightly lower scores in areas such as motor and social skills, though not in others, such as communication or problem-solving skills. The results suggest that the huge amount of stress felt by pregnant mothers during these unprecedented times may have played a role,” said Dani Dumitriu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and lead investigator of the study.

Dr. Dumitriu said these small shifts — at a population level — could have a “significant public health impact.” 

Another recent article indicates that mask wearing by adults and children may impact children’s social and emotional development as masks can impair our ability to recognize others’ emotions. This is particularly difficult for preschoolers who are just learning this complex skill. 

Despite our best efforts at transitioning our rich classrooms to “virtual learning environments,” enrollment is down across the country (source). 

Some families chose to delay their children’s first school experience while others pulled their children out of programs when distance learning options weren’t working well for them. Those who are currently enrolled certainly missed a good part of the school experience through the height of the pandemic. 

All of this missed schooling is reflected in increased behavioral challenges reported by parents and parents’ increased worries about their children’s social and emotional development and well-being (source). 

“The year that they were out of school was a year that they didn’t have the opportunities for developing the social skills that normally happen during their period of development,” Dr. Tami Benton told NPR recently. “And you’re sort of catching up on all of that under extraordinary circumstances.” (source). 

This is as true for preschool children as it is for those in K-12 schools.

Dana teaching, long before COVID-19, masks, and distancing.
How Can We Support Social and Emotional Learning for the Children of COVID?

There is still much to learn about the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic on early social and emotional learning (source). The question is: What can we do to help support our children, especially our youngest children who have lived most (or all) of their lives during this disrupted time? 

Here are 5 suggestions from a long-time educator and mom of a toddler: 

  • Focus on Feelings: Help children clearly express their feelings by using specific language when supporting child-to-child interactions. Exaggerate your facial expressions if you are wearing a mask.
  • Acknowledge ALL the Stress: We all feel stress, whether we’re preschoolers, parents, teachers, or administrators. It’s fine to explain in age-appropriate language to your child that grown-ups get stressed out, too. And a little grace goes a long way! 
  • Calm Down: Practice and model strategies like deep breathing. Create a cozy space in your classroom or home that a child can choose to visit if they need a break.
  • Adjust Expectations: Assume that each child is doing his or her best at any given moment. If a system isn’t working for a student, adjust the system rather than expecting the child to conform.
  • Practice Peer Interactions: Learning to make friends, share, and solve problems with friends is important, but what feels “safe” is different for all families and keeps changing as the pandemic evolves. Find what works best for your child. As Dr. Kavita Tahilani explained, parents can find smaller, less intense ways for children to practice peer interactions. This may mean one-on-one playdates outside or virtual playdates using a common material like playdough.

With our focused, thoughtful attention to social emotional learning and the mental health of children and parents, the children in our care will be able to move past this time with resilience and strength.

 

Los materiales para la vuelta al cole más importantes de este año: Las máscaras y las habilidades para resolver problemas

Jodie's son

Mi hijo de seis años empezó el primer grado este mes en una escuela nueva, sin ninguna cara conocida a la vista. El primer día, le preguntó a su compañera de pupitre si quería que fueran amigos. Ella respondió encogiendo los hombros y diciéndole que lo pensaría.

Al día siguiente, su respuesta fue no. 

Grrr.

Mi sangre de mamá-oso hirvió cuando me contó su decisión, pero su carita pecosa permaneció relativamente tranquila y natural. No parecía enfadado: más bien estaba inseguro de qué debía hacer ahora.

A medida que nuestros hijos comienzan un nuevo año escolar, muchos de ellos de vuelta a las aulas después de una larga pausa causada por el Covid, me uno a muchos padres que están ayudando a nuestros hijos a resolver problemas sociales. 

Las preocupaciones de padres con la vuelta al cole

Un nuevo estudio realizado por Bright by Text y Big Heart World con casi 450 padres de niños de entre 2 y 8 años de edad, reveló que:

  • El 75% de los padres afirman estar preocupados por el aprendizaje socio-emocional de sus hijos. 
  • Los padres están más preocupados por el desarrollo socio-emocional que por el aprendizaje académico.
  • Sólo el 31% de los padres declaró sentirse “muy seguro” de poder ayudar a sus hijos a desarrollar sus habilidades socioemocionales. 

Con tantas cosas que están fuera de nuestro control en este momento (el 95% de los padres encuestados siguen preocupados por la posibilidad de que sus hijos se contagien de COVID), todavía hay formas de ayudar a nuestros hijos a volver a salir a la calle con confianza. 

Tres estrategias para ayudar a nuestros hijos a resolver problemas

Aquí hay tres estrategias para ayudar a tu hijo a resolver problemas sociales: 

  1. Devuelvele las preguntas. Cuando mi hijo de primer grado me preguntó qué creía que debía hacer para hacer amigos, mis otros hijos se lanzaron a hacer sugerencias. “Pasar tiempo en las barras durante el recreo”, sugirió mi hijo de tercer grado. “Allí seguro que haces amigos”. Mi hijo de cuatro años preguntó si podía ir a primer grado y ser amigo de su hermano mayor. (Qué bien, pero pues, no es posible). Le devolví la pregunta original a quien la hizo: “¿Qué crees TÚ que deberías hacer?”. Y, con sólo unos minutos de reflexión, se le ocurrieron algunas ideas geniales para hacer nuevos amigos y también para llevarse bien con la compañera no tan interesada. Por supuesto, a veces nuestros hijos necesitarán que les ayudemos a resolver problemas, pero otras veces sólo necesitan saber que creemos que ellos tienen las respuestas.
  2. Aplica la regla de “prueba 3 antes de venir a mí”. Con tres niños de edades cercanas, en mi casa hay conflictos casi constantes. Qué película ver, quién puede usar qué juguete, a qué parque vamos. En pocas palabras: los conflictos son agotadores, para los padres, para los niños e incluso para el perro de nuestra familia, que se levanta y sale de la habitación cuando hay un desacuerdo. La regla ” Prueba 3 antes de acudir a mí” anima a los niños a idear tres formas de resolver un problema por su cuenta antes de pedírselo a un adulto. Si están jugando a un juego de mesa y no están de acuerdo, la regla de “probar 3” podría ser la siguiente: negociar una regla que pueda resolver el problema, volver a empezar la partida o elegir un nuevo juego. Si todo eso falla, pueden pedirme ayuda a mí (o a otro adulto). Esto anima a los niños a resolver un problema entre ellos antes de pedir ayuda externa.
  3. Haz que el respeto sea un ingrediente de los desacuerdos. Los niños (amigos, hermanos, compañeros de clase) no siempre están de acuerdo. Y eso está bien. Pero insultar, gritar o herir físicamente a otra persona no está bien. Cuando surge un desacuerdo entre mis propios hijos o entre mi hijo y un amigo, a menudo me ayuda recordarles que en realidad se quieren, y que no tienen que estar de acuerdo, pero sí tienen que dirigirse al otro con respeto. Estas palabras son más efectivas cuando todos han tenido la oportunidad de respirar profundamente y calmarse.

Al comenzar otro año escolar marcado por la pandemia, añadamos habilidades de resolución de problemas sociales a nuestra lista de material escolar. 

Para más consejos sobre cómo ayudar a tu hijo a tener un gran corazón este año escolar, envía HEART al 274 448.

September 21, 2021 by Jodie Fishman, MPH, MCHES 0 Comments

This Year’s Hottest Back-to-School Supplies: Masks and Problem-Solving Skills

Jodie's son
Jodie's 6-year-old, heading to first grade

My six-year-old started first grade this month at a brand-new school, not a familiar face in sight. On the first day, he asked his next desk neighbor if she wanted to be friends. She responded with a shrug and said she’d think about it.

The next day, her answer was no. 

Grrr.

My mama-bear blood boiled when he told me her verdict, but his little freckled face remained relatively calm and matter-of-fact. He didn’t seem angry. Mostly, he seemed unsure of what to do next.

As our kids begin a new school year, many back in the classroom after a long Covid-induced hiatus, I join many parents across the country (and around the world) who are pitching in to help our kids figure out social problem-solving. 

Parents' Back-to-School Worries

A new study of nearly 450 parents of kids ages 2-8, conducted via text message by Bright by Text and Big Heart World, found that:

  • 75% of parents reported concern about their child’s social-emotional learning. 
  • Parents are more concerned about social-emotional development than academic learning.
  • Only 31% of parents reported feeling “very confident” in helping their child build social-emotional skills. 

With so much out of our control right now (95% of parents surveyed remain concerned about their child catching COVID), there are still ways we can help our kids get back out there confidently. 

Three Strategies to Help Our Kids Solve Problems

Here are three strategies for helping your child solve social problems: 

  1. Bounce questions back. When my first grader asked what I thought he should do to make friends, my other kids jumped in with suggestions. “Hang out at the monkey bars during recess,” suggested my third grader. “You’ll definitely make friends there.” My four-year-old asked if he could move up to 1st grade and be his big brother’s friend. (Sweet, but not possible.) I bounced the original question back to its asker: “What do YOU think you should do?” And, with just a few minutes of thought, he came up with some great ideas for making new friends and also getting along with the not-so-interested classmate. Of course, sometimes our kids will need us to help problem-solve — but other times they just need to know that we believe they have the answers.
  2. Use the “try 3 before coming to me” rule. With three kids close in age, there are near-constant conflicts in my house. Which movie to watch, who gets to use which toy, what playground we go to. Simply put: conflicts are exhausting — for the parents, for the kids, and even for our family’s dog who gets up and leaves the room when a disagreement rumbles through! The “Try 3 before coming to me” rule encourages kids to come up with three ways to solve a problem on their own before asking a grown-up. If they’re playing a board game and disagree, the “try 3” rule might look like: negotiate on a rule that may solve the problem, start the game over, or pick a new game. If all of that fails, then they can ask me (or another grown-up) for help. This encourages kids to solve a problem amongst themselves first before asking for outside help.
  3. Make respect an ingredient in disagreements. Kids (friends, siblings, classmates) don’t always agree. And that’s okay. But calling people names, yelling, or physically hurting someone else are not okay. When a disagreement comes up between my own kids or my child and a friend, it often helps to remind them that they actually like each other — and that they don’t have to agree, but they do have to approach each other respectfully. These words sink in the most when everyone has had a chance to take some deep breaths and calm down.

As we begin yet another pandemic school year, let’s all add social problem-solving skills to our school supply list. 

For more tips on helping your child grow a big heart this school year, text HEART to 274 448.

July 6, 2021 by Julia Levy 1 Comment

Parents Rank Kids’ Social and Emotional Learning As Top Priority for Coming School Year

SEL Study

Six in ten U.S. parents say their top concern for the coming school year is their child’s social and emotional wellness, about double the percentage of parents who voiced concerns about their children’s academic learning, according to a new national survey. 

Vikki Katz, a mother of two young children and a professor at Rutgers University, who led the study, Learning at Home While Under-connected, said parents’ concerns for their children centered around helping their children readjust to school, express their feelings, develop relationships — both with peers and with teachers — and get used to structure again. 

“Every parent’s primary concern is that their children be well and that their children be happy,” she said. “Up and down the socioeconomic spectrum this year, parents have watched their children be lonely and sad and scared, and felt powerless to really make things better for them. A return to school, symbolically, is a return to something they recognize as more normal and that their children will recognize as more normal.”

Parents Look to Support Children's Social and Emotional Wellness As We Move Toward the 2021-22 School Year
Vikki Katz

She said many parents found it possible to approximate academic learning at home: children could practice their shapes, numbers, colors, and early literacy skills. 

But interrupted in-person school paused social and emotional learning. Socialization and relationship building cannot be replaced at home — especially for young children who can’t interact with peers on the phone or play with each other via video chat. 

Dr. Katz said as parents look toward the fall, many are using educational media to explain the pandemic and big questions to their children; this is especially true among families who are more “under-connected.” 

She said many families are also starting to ease their children back into more “normal” social settings to start the process of learning (or re-learning) lessons like sharing, cooperating, and understanding how to express different feelings: “All of the kinds of relationships that make a childhood are slowly returning. So whether it’s in the form of formal structures this summer — childcare, camp, etc. — or whether it’s just spending time with cousins and extended family members, all of these are things that both children and adults have been craving.”

July 6, 2021 by Julia Levy 0 Comments

Seven Ways Parents Can Help Their Kids Cultivate Post-Covid Friendships

Dr. Kavita Tahilani

COVID-19 has interrupted school and playdates, music classes and soccer clubs — straining children’s friendships and limiting their opportunities to interact with peers.

Now, as families eye the end of the pandemic, Big Heart World talked with Dr. Kavita Tahilani, mother of a young child and a Child and Adolescent Psychologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to get tips on how parents can help their kids prepare to interact with peers, rekindle friendships, and make new friends. 

“We are all social beings,” Dr. Tahilani said. “Social interaction is important for all of us, at any age. I think it’s really important for kids and teenagers because it’s such a part of their development and their growth and their emotional growth for them to be able to experience caring for individuals and others outside of their family, for them to be able to see how their actions impact others and how others can have an impact on them, and for them to develop empathy.” 

Seven Tips Parents Can Use to Help Their Children Transition Back to "New Normal"

Dr. Tahilani shared seven tips to help parents support their children as we start to transition back to a new “normal.”

  • Practice Interacting With Peers

“Figure out smaller, less intense ways for kids to start to practice interacting with peers,” she advised. Every child is different, but parents should consider introducing social interactions this summer in ways that feel safe to their family. This could mean having an outdoor playdate or getting together with another family outside. It could mean encouraging your child to interact with new kids at the playground or in another safe setting. 

  • Understand Your Child’s Concerns

If your child is anxious about something social — like an upcoming playdate or meeting new kids after summer break — start with conversation. “Make sure you’re communicating with your child about what their concerns are. Is it that they’re concerned about COVID specifically? Or are they concerned that they don’t know how to talk to kids anymore?” Dr. Tahilani said. “It’s important to understand what your child is nervous about, so you can make sure you’re solving the right problem.”

  • Get Back on a Regular Routine

Your schedule might have been a little different during COVID-19 and over the summer, but at least two weeks before school starts, Dr. Tahilani advised families to embrace structure and expectations around things like waking up, eating meals at regular times, bathing, and going to bed on time. Keeping a routine will help with the transition back to school, which will help with everything — including making friends. 

  • Practice Going Back to School

“A lot of times, kids will have what we call anticipatory anxiety,” Dr. Tahilani said. “There might be a lot of anticipatory anxiety leading up to the first day of school. For some kids, once they get there, once they’re in the classroom, they’ll adjust. For some kids, it’s going to be stressful for them throughout the day.” Talk with your child about their feelings before something new happens, practice strategies they can use if they’re feeling stressed, and rehearse. For example, you and your child can role play going to school, introducing themselves, and finding something in common with a new classmate. The rehearsal could have some real-life elements: try driving or walking to school before the first day, looking around, and playing at the playground so that your child knows what to expect. 

  • Parents: You should lead the way!

As it becomes safer to see friends, parents can model how to be a good friend by getting together with their friends. For some parents, Dr. Tahilani said this might mean facing their own anxiety about post-pandemic mingling. But, she said, it’s important to remember: “Even if you’re not having specific conversations with your child about anxiety or feelings or friendship, they’re still watching and you’re still the model for them.” 

  • This might take practice!

“I think this is a moment where we all need to be mindful of our expectations,” Dr. Tahilani said. “It may take kids some time to readjust to whatever this new normal is going to be. Have patience and keep trying.”

  • Don’t push too hard. 

Challenges are good, but be careful not to push too hard. “I think this is a moment where we all need to be mindful of our expectations,” Dr. Tahilani said. “It may take kids some time to readjust to whatever this new normal is going to be. Have patience and keep trying.”

 

Please Note: Parents who are seriously concerned about their children’s shyness or reluctance to socialize should talk to their children’s pediatricians.