As we approach the final weeks of the school year, the novelty of learning and working from home has likely diminished for everyone. After such an abrupt change and through this prolonged lack of social connections, many children may be feeling stressed, sad and lonely.
“We are built for communal living, designed to experience our world with others. Making sure children feel connected to their community is important for their sense of well-being.”
—Katherine B. Howard, MA, NCSP, LPC, School Psychologist and Director of Support Services
At Old Trail, we take the time to build a foundation of care around every child, especially during distance learning. From live classes to face-to-face advisory lunches and study halls to virtual musical performances, we’ve prioritized maintaining connections because we know these can have a profound impact on children’s happiness and self-confidence.
As we all continue to adjust to the relative isolation, parents may be wondering how they can replicate a sense of community and structure in the lives of their children.
Community Inside and Outside the Home
All parents can create a sense of community within the home by establishing new rituals to which their children can feel connected, like board game or movie nights, daily exercise routines, nature walks or even shared family chore times.
“Notions of friendship and community change over time as children develop. Very young children may define a friend as the person who is playing next to them in the sandbox – their sense of community often consists of the people with whom they share physical space. Older children begin to identify friends and their community as the people with whom they share interests, such as basketball or dance. Late elementary and middle school children begin to define friends and their community as the people who they believe share the same values – qualities that matter to them, such as loyalty, honesty or kindness.”Katherine B. Howard
Parents may want to reach out to the people and relationships that make your child feel known as an individual.
Your child could participate in a virtual playdate in which friends use blocks to build different structures for a town, verbally sharing what they’ve assembled as they play. Or they could all present a stuffed animal and tell its story as part of creating a “zoo.”
As students develop more individualized interests, they may be able to share these with friends in a virtual visit. They could form a poetry club or painting group, learn a new skill together like knitting or schedule a hula hoop contest. They may also enjoy a service project coordinated by an adult in which, for example, they produce signs with caring messages for a nursing home lawn display.
Older children can also enjoy virtual visits with friends in which they share their interests like favorite music groups or showcase a hobby. They can also benefit from feeling valued in an expanded community, outside of their immediate peer group. Service-oriented projects, such as writing thank you notes to first responders or dropping off care packages for healthcare workers, can provide a sense of connection to a broader community.
Importance of Disconnecting
Finally, parents need not be concerned if they cannot constantly facilitate this sense of community for their child. Cultivating a tolerance for being alone is equally important. And sometimes getting away from the sensory overload of screen time and the exhaustion of seeing oneself on screen all day can be a welcome relief.
If you’d like to learn more about Old Trail or would like information about additional learning resources, parents should contact Susan Newman, director of enrollment management at firstname.lastname@example.org.