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.