Helping Kids Cope with Social Distancing

Social distancing is a term many of us were unfamiliar with just a few short weeks ago. It was certainly not something our children were familiar with. We all know the rules about staying home when we feel sick or keeping our distance from those with contagious illnesses, but that kind of social distancing was something we only occasionally had to deal with. Now, we’re all being asked to distance ourselves from others at all times, and for an indefinite period of time, which is an understandable source of worry and fear. 

How do we explain a concept like social distancing to our children when all they want to do is see their friends? How can we help our children with something that, as a TCS parent put it, “goes against their very nature?”

As parents, this can feel daunting as we work to manage our own emotions around COVID-19 and deal with disruptions to our daily lives. Here is some advice to help children cope as well: 

  • Emphasize to our kids that we are taking care of others. One quote I saw online is “staying home saves lives.” That saying may not be appropriate for all children, but we do need to help children understand that we’re all doing our job to help stop the spread of germs by not spending time around other people. It is uncomfortable, and for many of us it is hard to be away from our friends. Normalize those feelings for your children by saying things like “I can understand how frustrating it is to not be able to see your friends” or “I know it’s sad that you can’t have a playdate with your friend in person”.
  • Distract your kids as much as possible by playing fun games, going for a walk, or playing outside.
  • Reframe for children the things they CAN DO to stay in touch like virtual meet-ups or virtual play dates with friends and family.
  • Make a family list of favorite “at home” activities like movies and popcorn, game night, or flashlight tag in the backyard. Empower the kids to take the lead on this so they feel in control of a situation that none of us can control.

Use these tips to help you feel better equipped to talk about social distancing with children. It also helps to remember that children are resilient. Old faithful tactics like keeping kids on a schedule, maintaining their daily “flow” or routines, and using distractions will help most children adjust to this new temporary normal. However, if you’re feeling like your children are continuing to struggle to adjust, please click here to see additional ways TCS can support your family or reach out to me (natalieg@tcsatl.org) for additional support. 

We’ll get through this together!