“Hi! How was your summer?” This would be an expected greeting between school-aged children who return to school after a long, hot summer. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many school-aged children have missed out on more than a year of typical activities, including school and extracurricular involvement, and associated peer interactions. Therefore, their social skills may have declined after a year of COVID-19 restrictions. For many of our children, fall 2021 will be the first time they interact, in-person, with teachers and same-aged peers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has stripped children of many things, including the opportunity to build and practice social skills. For all school-aged children, especially for those kids who are already a bit introverted, returning to a classroom environment may seem challenging and overwhelming. It will be important for our children to be provided with opportunities to develop and practice their social skills now, prior to returning to in-person schooling.
The following are some suggested ways to build your child’s social skills this summer:
Teach your child:
- How to read cues and/or facial expressions of peers
- How to ask to join in play
- How to respond to peers, especially when told no, or when teased
- How to ask for what they want/need in healthy and productive ways
- Engage in reciprocal play with your child, using dolls, Legos, action figures, etc.
- While playing, review the social skills you taught them (e.g., asking to join in play, reading cues during play)
- If/when possible, this summer, find ways for your child to interact and play with same-aged peers.
- This may include peers at camp, at a local park, and/or family friends
- Take cues from your child. Some kids may be do best in small peer groups (1-2 other peers)
Back to School Plan
- Some kids may be nervous about returning to school. As the school year gets closer, ask your child about what they are looking forward to and what may be making them nervous.
- Help your child plan for anything they may be nervous about, such as lunch time with new peers, recess, wearing masks, etc.
Vaccines and boosters for all eligible ages are available through several BJC HealthCare locations, other members of the Pandemic Task Force, or retail pharmacies and vaccine sites across the region. Some pediatrician or primary care offices may also offer the COVID-19 vaccine to their patients, so check with your doctor as well!