+

How to help kids socialize in a post-lockdown world

How to help kids socialize in a post-lockdown world
Photo by Spikeball on Unsplash

It's been 19 months since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Wuhan, China, and since that time, a lot has changed. Cities, states, and entire countries endured rolling shutdowns — or lockdowns. Business shuttered and schools were closed, and life as we knew it changed. From mask mandates to social distancing, every action and behavior was altered. But as infection rates begin to drop, we are making a comeback. Restaurants, movie theaters, and malls are (now) open. Business is (more or less) back, and this fall, most children will return to the classroom. In-person education will resume. But what does life look like in a post-pandemic world, particularly for the youngest members of our society?

"The COVID-19 pandemic affected our kids in many ways that we don't yet fully understand," Laura Lofy — a licensed psychologist and school psychologist — tells Upworthy. "Some desperately missed their classmates. Others fell behind on schoolwork, and some became riddled with anxiety and fear. Many regressed on skills they had developed or lost momentum in areas in which they had been making progress." And one of those areas is interpersonal, i.e. many children are struggling socially, and this has the potential to have a long-lasting impact on our children and the next generation.



"Since March 2020, there's been a significant increase in reported youth anxiety, particularly in relation to fears of the coronavirus, along with greater frustration, boredom, insomnia and inattention," an article on The Conversation explains. "Results of a survey from summer 2020 found that over 45% of adolescents reported symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress." Resuming face-to-face interactions is also a major stressor. But what can we do as parents and caregivers to help our children progress? How can we help them (re)acclimate to life? The first thing we should do is temper our (and their) expectations.

"It's important to have realistic expectations and recognize upfront that this is going to be hard," pediatric psychologist Kate Eshleman tells the Cleveland Clinic. "Kids haven't had to share with others, and they haven't had to talk to unfamiliar adults," Dr. Eshleman says. "You may see some shyness or kids responding to other people in ways that aren't typical of how they act around their families." But these obstacles can be overcome, with time, encouragement, and a bit of guidance.

"I think the most valuable thing that parents can do is ask open-ended questions, listen carefully to what their kids are saying, validate their experiences and feelings, and revisit the topic often and from different angles," Lofy says. "Including kids in conversations to explore their experiences and understanding of what happened will also be really helpful."


Photo by Katherine Hanlon on


Not sure how (or where) to begin? Sharing one's own reflections can be a good jumping off point. "You could say something like, 'You know, it's kind of weird going back to work. On one hand, I am excited to see my friends, but on the other hand, I kind of liked being home with my family. What about you and school? How do you feel about going back?' I highly recommend that parents practice asking open-ended questions, using starters like 'tell me about...' and "what was that like for you,'" Lofy adds. "Give them room to speak and then use validation to convey understanding."

Of course, there are other ways prepare your child for post-pandemic socialization — and post-pandemic life. Start small. Birthday parties and trips to Disney may be overwhelming but an ice cream playdate could be perfect. Give them conversation starters. Communication may be tricky at first, but having ideas can help. Dr. Eshleman and the Cleveland Clinic suggest creating a list of questions and talking points. "Come up with a handful of topics they can ask their friends about in person. Arming them with age-appropriate questions (i.e. 'Did you go on vacation this summer?' and 'What's your favorite thing for lunch?') will help kids feel better prepared to converse face to face." You should also be sympathetic and empathetic. Use validating language and acknowledge their struggles, and take things slow, particularly with toddlers and young children who have had very little or no pre-COVID interactions.

"Hire a babysitter or enlist the help of an extended family member to watch your child while you run errands or even just work in the yard, which will give them practice in being apart from you," the Cleveland Clinic explains.

That said, this approach will not work for everyone. Some children are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, and not everyone is ready for social re-entry — and that's okay. Getting back to "normal" will take time. But according to Tiiu Lutter, a licensed therapist and the co-founder of Thriving Families Center, these fears should be addressed sooner than later.

"When left alone, anxiety gets worse, so the sooner it is faced and handled, the quicker it goes away." '

But what can you do? According to Lofy, you should acknowledge their fears, normalize their feelings, you should help them assess the situation — and weigh the real versus perceived risk — and come up with a plan to move forward. Having executable steps helps.

"If your child experiences social anxieties, you should start a conversation about their fears," Lofy says. "What is it they are concerned about? Put their fears into a 'normal' context. Reassure them their feelings are normal and that other kids are nervous as well. They are not alone in feeling anxious. You should also have a plan for their anxiety. Prime your child for a social event. Talk with them about what they will be doing and who will be there. Practice your deep breathing before the event, and before you get out to the car practice your strategies, remind your child they will be safe and you want them to have fun."

If your child is still unable to move forward, you may want to enlist the help of a trained professional. Clinical psychologists, school psychologists, and child therapists have tools that we as parents do not. Another great resource, particularly for teens, is Crisis Text Line. This is free, 24/7 service puts your child in touch with a trained crisis counselor immediately, via text.

The Prince Charles Cinema/Youtube

Brendan Fraser dressed as Rick O'Connell.

Brendan Fraser might be making the greatest career comeback ever, racking up accolades and award nominations for his dramatic, transformative role in “The Whale." But the OG Fraser fans (the ones who watch “Doom Patrol” solely to hear his voice and proudly pronounce his last name as Fray-zure, for this is the proper pronunciation) have known of his remarkable talent since the 90s, when he embodied the ultimate charming, dashing—and slightly goofball—Hollywood action lead.

Let us not forget his arguably most well known and beloved 90s character—Rick O’Connell from the “Mummy” franchise. Between his quippy one-liners, Indiana Jones-like adventuring skills and fabulous hair, what’s not to like?

During a double feature of “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” in London, moviegoers got the ultimate surprise when who should walk in but Brendan Fraser himself, completely decked out in Rick O’Connell attire. The brown leather jacket. The scarf. Everything.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

A woman treats her miniature pig like a toddler and it even 'talks' with electronic buttons

Merlin will tap buttons that say “eat,” “outside” and “ice cream.”

Photo by Ben Mater on Unsplash

A woman treats her pig like a toddler and the internet can't get enough.

Pigs are cute. Well, piglets are cute, but they usually don't stay those tiny little snorting things very long. That is unless you get a mini pig and name it something majestic like Merlin. (I would've gone with Hamlet McBacon, but no one asked me.)

Mina Alali, a TikTok user from California, has been going viral on the internet for her relationship with Merlin, her miniature pig. Of course, there are plenty of folks out there with pigs—mini pigs, medium pigs, pigs that weigh hundreds of pounds and live in a barn with a spider named Charlotte. But not everyone carries their pig around on adventures like it's their child.

Alali's videos of her sweet interactions with her little pig have gotten a lot of people wanting their own piggy, but training Merlin wasn't always easy. According to Yahoo Finance, the 25-year-old told SWNS that she has wanted a pig her whole life and finding Merlin was a "dream come true," but she wasn't expecting how challenging it would be to train him. If you've never been around pigs, then you may not know that they squeal—a lot—and unless you're living on an actual farm, that could be a problem.

Keep ReadingShow less

Women are looking for love at Home Depot.

Even though people have endless options to find love these days, whether in real life or online, finding the perfect person still isn’t easy. In fact, according to Pew Research, 55% of women believe dating is harder today than it was 10 years ago. So it’s understandable that some are considering ditching the apps to meet people in real life.

Studies show that for people looking for a serious relationship, real life may be the better option.

According to Newsweek, a study by Illinois State University sociology professor Susan Sprecher found that young people who first met face to face were 25% more likely to report feelings of closeness than those who initially met online. Aditi Paul, a communications professor at Pace University in New York, found that people who first met in real life lasted four times longer than those who met online.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

More than seven thousand people shared their best ideas to stop mass shootings. Here are the best.

Everyone agrees mass shootings need to end. But what can really be done?

A makeshift memorial after the 2019 El Paso mass shooting.

As of January 24, 2023, at least 69 people have been killed in 39 mass shootings across the United States . The deadliest shooting happened on January 21 in Monterey Park, California, when a 72-year-old man shot 20 people, killing 11. On January 23, a 66-year-old man killed 7 people and injured another in a shooting in Half Moon Bay, California.

It’s hard to see these stories in the news every few weeks—or days—and not get desensitized, especially when lawmakers have made it clear that they will not do anything substantive to curb the availability of assault weapons in the U.S.

After the assault weapons ban, which had been in effect for 10 years, lapsed in 2004, the number of mass shootings tripled.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

People rally behind a 12-year-old actress who was 'humiliated' with a 'Razzie' nomination

The parody awards show has now enforced an age limit rule to its nominations.

Ryan Kiera Armstrong in the 2022 film 'Firestarter'

Since the early 80s, the Golden Raspberry Awards, aka the "Razzies," has offered a lighthearted alternative to the Oscars, which, though prestigious, can sometimes dip into the pretentious. During the parody ceremony, trophies are awarded to the year’s worst films and performances as a way to "own your bad," so the motto goes.

However, this year people found the Razzies a little more than harmless fun when 12-year-old actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong was nominated for "Worst Actress" for her performance in the 2022 film "Firestarter." She was 11 when the movie was filmed.

Sadly, this is not the first time a child has received a Razzie nom. Armstrong joins the ranks of Jake Lloyd, who played young Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace," as well as Macaulay Culkin, who was nominated three times.

Armstrong's nomination resulted in a flood of comments from both industry professionals and fans who felt the action was cruel and wanted to show their support for the young actress.

Keep ReadingShow less

Surrendered mama dog reunited with puppies after she refused to leave the corner.

People surrender animals to Humane Societies for all kinds of reasons, but many do it because they don't feel like they can properly care for their animals anymore. It could be that they have to move to a home that doesn't allow pets or they lost a job, making caring for an animal difficult.

Two small dogs were surrendered to Marin Humane Society in Novato, California and the female had recently given birth to puppies. It's not clear if the previous owners felt like they couldn't care for both the older dogs and the puppies so they just kept the puppies, or if something else prompted the drop-off.

Either way, this mama dog was in distress after being left at the shelter without her babies. She refused to leave the corner of the large kennel and just looked so sad. The employees felt for the sweet mama dog and decided to do some detective work to see if they could figure out where the puppies were located.

Keep ReadingShow less