Social distancing, smaller classroom bubbles, school closures and a shift to online learning in some parts of the country have made it more difficult for kids to connect with their friends. In-person playdates and impromptu visits have been put on pause. For how long exactly? We can’t be certain. It’s important to help your child find creative ways to “get together” with their friends virtually. This may even be an opportunity to expand their existing social network.
Younger kids aren’t able to connect and converse online the way adults do, but that doesn’t mean virtual playdates have to feel forced or awkward. Make it fun by setting them up with Xbox or Nintendo games online. If you don’t want to pay for a subscription, many websites offer free downloadable multiplayer games categorized by age group. If your kids have maxed out their video game time, no problem. Organize a remote scavenger hunt, arrange a virtual museum visit, sign them up for an online painting class or start a group dance challenge video.
Help your child think of ways to surprise their friends with gifts that can be sent by mail or dropped off at their house. Suggest writing a letter, drawing a picture, sending a small present or leaving a container of homemade holiday treats on their doorstep and encourage their friends to join in.
As we head into winter, there are some fun activities kids can do outdoors that allow for physical distancing like cross country skiing, snowboarding, sledding, a backyard bonfire or snowshoeing. It could even be something as simple as inviting a few of the kids in the neighbourhood over for a build your own snowman contest (with each child competing six feet apart). Even though it’s cold outside, there are ways to have fun, keep your kids healthy and get them moving.
It’s possible to watch movies together without actually being in the same room. Anyone with a monthly Netflix subscription can add on the Netflix Party Google Chrome extension for free. Your child can invite friends to the party to watch a movie together via a shareable link. This feature adds a chat window to Netflix videos, allowing everyone to watch and comment on the same video, with playback synchronized across all devices. So get comfy, pop some popcorn and get your child set up for a cozy little long-distance get together.
Your child might be seeing some of their friends in their classroom bubble or online but they could be missing those connections that extend beyond their close circle. Help them think of other kids they may want to get in touch with by going through old photos from camp, school or extracurricular activities. Is there someone they had a great experience with but haven’t talked to in a while? Make a point to reach out. Chances are, that other child is looking for more ways to connect too and would welcome the opportunity.
It may take a little extra effort and some planning to maintain and build those friendships when we’re all living with such uncertainty, but these relationships are essential when it comes to your child’s mental health. And with the holidays on the horizon, spending time with family and friends is even more important. Just get creative and think about making some new socially distanced traditions this year!