There are many times in motherhood when I’ve asked myself, “am I doing enough” or “am I teaching her enough”.
I make time each morning to sit with her to go over her ABC’s, we read books before nap time and usually before bed. We use educational apps on her iPad, and we go for walks and point out names for everything we see and we even paint and make crafts together.
Somehow my Early Childhood training has turned into an endless quest to find the educational meaning behind everything we do. Everyday things like eating Annie’s has become a chore, we count as she eats, we name the names of the strangely shaped noodles, and still, there’s something I can not teach her.
I was sitting in my office the other day, writing about raising eco-conscious children.
When Tony busted through the door.
“There’s two little girls outside and Penelope said she wanted mommy”
I got up a little pissed that he couldn’t have helped her and let me finish my work.
Turns out our neighbor’s friends had been hiking and needed to make a stop to fill up a bottle for their youngest. Their two oldest we’re only a year or two older than Penelope, but you wouldn’t have guessed since they were all the same size.
Our daughter has inherited my partner’s genes and is tall for her age, which tends to throw off the other kids. They must see her and think she’s older, which would be fine except her language and social skills just aren’t there yet.
That first time I really thought, that I wasn’t teaching her enough.
Since the day she was born, I went over all the things I wanted her to learn. I was over-enthusiastic and bought flashcards at 6 months. But I didn’t think learning to be social was going to be the thing I couldn’t teach her.
With a few helpful prompts of tag and hide-and-go-seek, she was off and within a few minutes, they were playing like they had known each other forever. But I know it’s something a lot of parents struggle with, especially parents of one or those who home school.
With this pandemic, there’s not a lot of opportunities for socializing our children. Gymnastics has been closed, parks are wrapped with caution tape, and let’s be honest, a two-year-old doesn’t have the attention span for zoom play dates.
Clearly now is not the time to focus on socializing, but there are some things we do now in order to develop and build the confidence a child needs to form successful relationships in the future.
Most children don’t need a lot of friends, but friendships are important to a child’s emotional and social growth. Some children have a harder time than others, and as a former ECE, I thought it was a great idea to share some tips if your wondering how to socialize your child during a pandemic.
Model Social Skills
Learning how to socialize your child during a pandemic is best done by modeling the skills yourself. Take advantage of the few social interactions you have, like saying “hi” to the check out person at the grocery store, or make saying “hi” to people a game. Maybe you will say hi to 4 people today, even if two of them are your parents and one is your husband. The key is to point out each social interaction and take count of each greeting.
Practice with Family
I remember taking a course in school on childhood development and we learned about open-ended questions and commands. That way it helps your child better understand their skills, rather than repeating what you’re saying. It encourages confidence when they can think for themselves in a safe environment.
Example: When you’re at home in a safe environment try calling a family member, and instead of telling your child “say hi”, try saying “Give grandma a nice greeting”.
At the moment we’re working on understanding emotions like anger, joy, terror, nervousness, mischief, etc. Playing a game that helps them identify the emotion is another great learning tool for building communication skills. It helps differentiate between certain emotions that will teach a child to express themselves better and not get confused when they interact with other children. It’s also important to express your emotions with your child.
Example: When my daughter does something good I tell her that I am happy and proud of her, and vice versa.
Teach through Play
We’re currently going through a stage of imaginative play, and it’s a great way to introduce social scenarios. Another great way to learn how to socialize your child during a pandemic is by introducing prompts during play. You can start by talking about topics like sharing, maybe say “I’m going to share this toy with you because sharing is nice”. It’s a great way to teach your child how to respond to certain social situations like a child behaving aggressively.
Example: You can talk about how doll “a” is upset, and how doll “b” should react.
Provide the Environment
Even with all these opportunities to develop new skills the best way a child can learn to be social is by actually doing it. So when the time is right we can give them chances to interact with different people, provide exposure and good company.
Skills will develop naturally over time. As a parent, I know it’s hard to see your child unsure of themselves or shy. I remember there were times in my childhood where I sat alone or felt excluded, and I know its inevitable to protect our child from every negative situation, and the best thing we can do for them is providing them with the skills they need to work through those situations.
So if you’re still trying to figure out how to socialize your child during a pandemic, just remember it takes time. Most children will develop social skills when they are ready but know there are things parents can do to support them in the meantime.
I always try to remember is that building those interpersonal skills will only help to develop their personality. Good and bad she will work through it and that children are pretty resilient.