We ended the school year in a manner that most of us never have. We are beginning a new school year with options that we’ve also never had. These options have caused many of us to ponder questions that usually just come naturally. One glaring question that kept coming to my mind is if I chose distance or virtual learning for my son, how would this social butterfly meet new friends during his first year of high school? I’d prefer that he not be stuck online all day with limited interaction with his peers; something he’d get daily if he were in school. What’s a mama to do though? If going to school is not your choice, what should you do to support your child’s socialization? Is there a group for that? How do seasoned homeschooling parents make socializing happen?
I pulled in the tweens and teens in my family to help me with this and after a quick session of ‘Educate the Adult’, I understood that technology gets the clear win here! Older children for sure are very tech-savvy. They know exactly where to turn in order to interact with their pals: text, phone, video chats, and social media. Their younger counterparts are not too far behind them. They know how to use technology too!
After interacting with my 4-year-old nephews, I’ve learned that they are pretty in tune in with what is happening technologically. My nephews and I have communicated via resources such as FaceTime and Messenger. Some of the apps even allow us to add flare with filters. While it is intended in no way to replace in-person contact, parents can still create meaningful connections for their children through the use of technology.
Older kiddos may not need any help on the how-to as they have pretty much figured this whole technology quest out on their own, but they may need reminders of the different ways to purposefully ‘hangout’ with her friends although they are technically apart. Texting and talking on the telephone are oldies but goodies and still reign supreme as they were both mentioned as communication tools. However, teens, especially social teens can quickly get bored with this method. Providing teens with a list of online resources like Zoom that they could use to video chat with multiple pals at once along with some suggestions of what they could do during the chat (play games, do a scavenger hunt, play charades, etc.) would be beneficial.
Although technology gets the win for our current situation, I would be highly disappointed in myself if I did not mention the best form of socializing – talking to another human being. This can still be done six feet apart and with a mask on (safety first). Masks can give the perception that we can’t talk. I’m sure our children feel that at a greater level. But, with a little creativity and planning, we could potentially create opportunities for our children to socialize with their pals in person. We are blessed to live in a region where outdoor recreation is plentiful. This could give us the space we need to foster some in-person connection while following distancing guidelines.
Using the technological tools above helps us as parents support our child(ren)’s socialization. Some parents may rely on the technology they have on hand for their children to talk, text, or video chat, for example. Some of our children are playing sports and gaining interactions in that manner. Other parents may allow their children to safely hang out with a few select individuals. Whatever your family decides, remember to design and put some time and energy into keeping your kids socially engaged. They need social interaction, even if it can’t be in school or in a manner that we are accustomed to.