Dear Dr. Debbie,
We moved over the summer and due to COVID-19 my school-aged children are finding it tough to make new friends.
How much should I support them in holding onto old friendships until they are introduced to new classmates via technology in September?
These are strange times, indeed. I imagine that teachers will do onscreen activities to help children get to know one another once school starts. See if the school has any sort of buddy matching system for new students. If they don’t you might offer to start one before school starts!
For now, you are probably keeping your children well apart from other children. While this is necessary to prevent possible contagion with the coronavirus, it’s not going to help your children to make new friends. Even faces that are half-covered, unfortunately, might feel unapproachable.
Once the school year gets underway, pursue out-of-class connections to classmates for your children through whatever opportunities present themselves to you, such as PTA committees or other at-home volunteer work. When you Zoom with another parent whose child shares a teacher with your child, the classmates could get some casual video time with each other. If a friendship blossoms, you might manage an in-person visit keeping safe distances for an outside activity such as volley ball (beach balls are perfect for younger children), croquet, or kite flying.Remember to keep masks handy for any brief moments of being closer than six feet apart.
If the school is forming online clubs, that’s another way for students to find and forge new friendships. The school secretary, or a community website or Facebook page would be a good starting point to find a Girl Scout or Cub Scout troop if your children are interested in this. Or you can go through council headquarters: Girl Scouts of Central Maryland
covers Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll, Harford and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City. Girls Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay encompasses Maryland’s eastern shore and all of Delaware. The largest council in the country is Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital which includes a wide territory in the Greater Washington, D.C. region including parts of West Virginia. Boy Scouts have regional offices in Baltimore and Bethesda.
Meanwhile, hang on to those endearing friendships from the old neighborhood. Phone calls, text messaging, video chats, and old-fashioned letters and drawings sent back and forth through the mail are priceless reminders to your children that they are friend-worthy.
Since friendships for children are safest through screens, earpieces, and U.S. mail right now, stick with the friends who already are well-known to your children. Make time with friends a part of every week or more often than that. If you’re still in the same time zone, it really doesn’t matter during this ongoing health crisis if your friend is next door or in another state. As with other challenges we are presently facing, it’s going to take some extra effort to find some new friends during a pandemic. So help your children hang on to the ones they already have.
Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist with degrees in Early Childhood Education, Counseling, and Human Development. Workshops for parents, teachers, and childcare professionals can be found at: drdebbiewood.com.
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