Refreshing Social Skills in a Post-Pandemic World

Elementary Aged Kids Socializing
Over 2 years of social distancing and restrictions like wearing masks have caused concerns for our childrens’ social and communication skills.
Luckily, it seems the dust has finally begun to settle with regards to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90% of the U.S. population lives in an area with “low or medium Covid-19 community level”.

Statistics like these have led to many places lifting mask mandates and allowing more individuals to gather together.

But as life starts to progress “back to normal”, we might notice a continued impact from the Pandemic in how children interact with others.

Impacts of Restrictions on Social Skills

Studies have shown changes in children’s social skills during the Covid-19 Pandemic across various age groups.

Some educators have reported school-aged children showing less confidence while participating in group activities.

One study published in April 2022 showed toddlers and preschoolers struggling more with age-appropriate social skills such as sharing and turn taking during the pandemic.

Babies have been found to show more difficulty understanding facial expressions. This could be related to having limited social interaction with peers. Daycare workers that were previously required to wear masks may have also been a contributing factor.

Even adults who experienced isolation, reduced face to face interaction, and a limited social network during the Coronavirus may be out of touch with using some daily social skills appropriately.

How to Help Your Child Brush Up on Social Skills

According to an article posted by UNICEF, children’s “social skills are out of practice, and parents may need to provide children with more coaching and explicit instruction than they have had to in the past.”

Before the Pandemic, children often picked up naturally on social skills through everyday interactions with others. But during the last several years, many kids missed out on those interactions.

Prepare Your Child for New Activities & Experiences

Many children were forced to stop participating in certain clubs, activities, or sports during the Pandemic. Or, they may not have gotten the chance to even start them due to restrictions putting group activities on hold.
Talk to your child about if he or she would like to participate. If they’re up for it, then have a conversation about some of the social “rules” surrounding the activity.
For example, if your child is going to join a Girl Scout troop, have a discussion with your child a few days or weeks before the first meeting. Tell your child where she’ll go, who will be there (all new friends or maybe there’ll be some familiar faces), and what will happen.
Clearly and directly talking about expected social norms like making eye contact, saying hello, and introducing themself to peers are good talking points.
Knowing what to expect ahead of time can help prepare your child by allowing him or her to understand what social skills are expected in that particular situation. This can also give your child the opportunity to ask any questions he or she might have.

Practice Conversational Skills at Home

With many adults working from home and kids attending school virtually for the past few years, it’s time for a refresher on some basic “rules” on having a conversation.
Some basic, important components of having an appropriate conversation include:
  1. How to join a conversation.
  2. Initiating a new conversation.
  3. Maintaining a conversation.
  4. Finishing a conversation.

Activities for Building Social Skills

How can you practice and teach the skills involved at different points in a conversation? Here are few fun, effective ways:
  • Role Playing. Act out different social situations at home with family members.

Example activity: Practice topic maintenance by having a conversation with your child during which you make a few off-topic comments. How does that make him or her feel?

 

Skills developed: Your child can learn to take another person’s point of view by experiencing how some “unexpected” social behaviors can make others feel.

  • Take Note of TV Shows. Paying extra attention to some of the social situations on TV shows can be a good way to understand appropriate ways to interact and have a conversation with others.

Example activity: Look for scenes in your child’s favorite movie or TV shows that show examples of social behaviors. If there’s a scene where one child joins in a conversation with a group, talk afterward about how he or she did that.

 

Skills developed: Appropriate ways to maintain a conversation (like asking follow-up questions and making on topic comments), and example phrases (such as “It was good seeing you! I have to get going soon…” to wrap up a conversation).

  • Charades for Feelings. Understanding and practicing non-verbal communication are crucial for ramping up to engage in more social environments.

Example activity: Play a game of charades where you and your family act out different emotions.

 

Skills developed: This can encourage everyone to watch different facial expressions and body language closely and try interpreting their meaning.

Then, when in social situations with others outside of home, everyone will be more conscious of how their own non-verbal communication (and that of others) impacts communication.

 

If you’re having a conversation with someone and they’re looking away or have a facial expression indicating their boredom, it might be time to switch topics or give them a chance to talk.

Additional Resources

Many of us are feeling excited that the world is getting a little more “back to normal” with most Covid 19 restrictions being lifted. Brushing up on some basic social skills can help families return to socializing more with others.

If you have concerns about your child’s social or communication skills, he or she may benefit from specialized services from a Speech-Language Pathologist. A Speech Therapy evaluation can help determine what difficulties your child is having. Ongoing individualized therapy can include techniques and activities to help improve these areas.

TherapyWorks offers Speech Therapy, Occupational and Physical Therapy both in person and through teletherapy. If you would like to learn more, or discuss your child’s specific needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to TherapyWorks!

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 Are you interested in services for your child? Founded by Michelle Worth and Erin Vollmer, TherapyWorks provides speech, occupational and physical therapies in-home and via teletherapy.

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