Best ways to improve Social Skills for Kids Who are being impacted due to the Pandemic (2021)?
People of all ages have been affected by the pandemic in some form or the other. Moreover, the pandemic has affected people in different spheres of life, such as economic, social, financial, and psychological. It might take time for some of it to go back to normal.
An important thing to consider is how the pandemic affected kids’ social skills. Are there any particular developmental setbacks in terms of social interactions that children today are facing? How detrimental is it, and is there anything we can do about it? Let’s find out.
Association between social skills and kids development
According to humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, love and belongingness are the third basic need after physiological (food, clothing, shelter) and safety needs (health, financial security) in the human hierarchy of needs.
Love and belongingness stress the human need to form interpersonal and social relationships, be a part of a group, share ideas and opinions, and give and receive affection and love.
This need applies to children too. Developing this human need helps them navigate their social world. It also affects their learning and success in their school years and later years in life.
A longitudinal study conducted on 753 kindergarten students over a two-decade period found that kindergarten students who exhibited traits like sharing, co-operation, helpfulness were more likely to succeed as young adults.
In contrast, those children who exhibited poor social skills were more likely to drop out of school, engage in drug and alcohol-related and higher crime outcomes which suggests that the pandemic has affected kids’ social skills.
Types of social skills that kids need to develop in their early years of life
The development of social skills is an essential aspect of life. It helps make new friends and have better educational and career outcomes. Being in groups and with other people is the best way to learn and hone one’s social skills.
Listed below are the various types of social skills that make children good social beings in the future.
Sharing is the most basic way kids learn to be social beings and develop their social skills. Whether it be sharing toys, food, or books, it teaches a feel-good experience in the child, increasing their self-esteem.
Research shows that children as young as age two show a desire to share with others, usually when the resources available are abundant.
Working together to achieve a common goal is another important social skill for kids. After the age of 3, children slowly learn to work towards group goals, whether to build something or play a game together.
Research shows that when kids are cooperative, they tend to learn more about themselves too.
- Listening and following directions
Listening to instructions and opinions given by parents, friends, and teachers helps children understand the aspect of being patient and understanding later in life. As a result, this helps to improve the kids’ social skills.
It helps them consider other people’s views when they start working with their colleagues, have a romantic partner, and have deeper friendships. It also helps them understand the consequences of their actions and their effect on people around them.
- Being well mannered
Using phrases like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” can help children go a long way. Also, teaching to respect people’s personal spaces by not going too close to their face or body while speaking to others can help them understand how to function in the social sphere of life.
How has the pandemic affected the development of these social skills for kids?
Along with health concerns, the pandemic has increased the fears in parents about their kids’ stunted growth of their social skills that would otherwise take place if the pandemic hadn’t struck.
Children’s interactions today are limited to online classes, parents, grandparents (if any), pets (if any), and a sibling (if any). Today’s world is limited to the four walls of their house, and there are not many interactions with the outside world.
Lack of exposure often causes shyness, separation anxiety, and anxiety in general in children, from which it may be then hard to bounce back. They may also get extremely overwhelmed when they are in social situations and may not function as effectively.
Domains that have been affected
- School and other social interaction
The primary source of interaction for children is their home, surrounding environment, and going to school, which is taken away due to the pandemic. Therefore, they would miss out on feelings of being around people of their age and the experiences that come along with it.
Research shows that excitement and stress are the two most common reactions seen in children when starting school, but this seems far out of reach with the situation today. Hence, they are not learning these aspects of sharing, co-operation, listening, etc.
- Development of cognitive skills
When it comes to the brain, social interactions affect the brain, which affects our behavioral and emotional responses to others. Thus, it is a two-way, back and forth process.
According to research, children start learning to co-operate and share with their friends after 3. At the age of 4, they begin with cooperative play, and after the age of 5, they fully understand the concept and learn to co-operate reasonably with their friends.
By the age of 4, they also understand their ethnic identity, responsibility, social rules, etc.
The given situation doesn’t allow children to understand these skills’ depth and have no one to directly compare them with as most learning happens through interactions with others.
What can you do about it?
Help children stay connected to their friends or family members virtually.
Even though children get some exposure to the outside world through online classes, it isn’t teaching them any social skills specifically. Thus, arranging zoom meetings for your child to connect and speak to their friends or family can help them have some connection with the outside world. It can also help them develop the habit of listening.
Play fun games with them and encourage them to read more
Engaging with kids in fun games can help them think and reflect on various things. For example, playing games like ‘Guess who this person or thing is” or asking them general knowledge questions can help them get a taste of the world in which we live.
Reading too is an excellent way for children to develop themselves mentally. Research shows a reciprocal relationship between social skills, reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and vocabulary and reading comprehension in the development of social skills.
Research also shows that play-based, family, or teacher involve programs, exposure to story and drama activities help children develop their social skills.
Thus, even though children do not have too much exposure to the outside world, they can hone their vocabulary skills and have virtual interactions as much as possible, as it will prove beneficial for them later on in life.
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