The past seven to eight months of living with COVID-19 have been challenging for everyone. We’re all experiencing a collective sense of grief, anxiety and fear. There’s no doubt, however, that the pandemic has been particularly difficult for kids, adolescents and young adults. The changes in their daily lives can directly impact their emotional and social development. Socializing is a crucial part of growing up. Young people learn a lot through their relationships with their friends and peers—like how to cooperate with others, how to trust and how to offer support.
But it’s not all bad news. With thoughtfulness and intent, parents and their kids can work together to help fill in the missing pieces to promote healthy emotional and social development. Here are some tips:
Daily routines are great psychic anchors. Regardless of what’s going on in our lives, knowing what to expect throughout the day can significantly reduce pandemic-related anxiety and uncertainty. Maintaining a schedule that includes fixed times for meals, fresh air and exercise, and sleep cultivates consistency and safety.
It’s normal to feel anxious and depressed during the pandemic. Talking helps us process those painful emotions. It’s cathartic, releasing tension and stress. Listen without judgment can be especially hard for parents with kids who’ve never had mental health issues in the past. Parents should lead by example by expressing their feelings in healthy way, too.
Several studies have indicated that the way we use social media has a direct impact on our mental health and self-esteem. Specifically tailored virtual interactions targeting friends and family have been shown to boost feelings of connection and belonging.
Using interactive digital media like texts with photos, animation, videos and emojis enhances virtual socializing. The more opportunities kids have for positive interactions with peers and friends, the deeper their feelings of attachment and connection.
Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a psychologist, blogger and author of Logged in and Stressed out.