• If you’re a parent, you’re probably wondering (and worrying about) how your kids are doing post-pandemic.
  • While virtual learning enabled kids to continue learning amid Covid-19, experts say they may need some extra time and space to re-adjust before they head back to the classroom.
  • Whether you have younger or older kids in the house, it’s important that you play an active role in helping them adapt to the changing climate.
  • For those with younger kids, socialization plays a big role in childhood development; ensure they spend quality time with their peers even if that means you have to get creative.
  • For teens who’ve spent the last year at home during quarantine, consider ways to help them feel more independent, even if it’s scary for you.
  • Lastly, remember that kids and teens are resilient. As long as you’re there to provide support and help them grow, they’ll be just fine.

Just because the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be over, doesn’t mean  everything is back to normal. And if you’ve got children, you may be underestimating the ways in which virtual learning might’ve affected their social skills and sense of independence. 

The development of socialization skills, along with opportunities to build self-confidence, play crucial roles in childhood and adolescent development, so while virtual learning certainly has its perks, some experts forecast that your kids might need some extra time and space to re-adjust before they head back this fall. The solution might not surprise you—the best way to support your kids post-COVID, whether they’re children or teens, is to play an active, healthy role in their lives. 

And that translates differently, depending on their age. For younger, elementary school-aged children, it’s important that they don’t miss out on key developmental milestones that occur when they get to spend time with their peers. For your older adolescents and teens in middle school and high school, emphasizing their autonomy and encouraging their personal growth and development through supportive parenting is essential to their mental health. 

Socialization Tips for Parents with Kids in Elementary School 

While undoing the effects of quarantine might not be quick or easy, here are a few ideas designed to help your kids develop social skills, post-pandemic: 

  1. Enroll your child in a new activity, especially a team sport or club. These activities are a great way for them to form connections with other kids, and research indicates that individuals with more developed social skills go on to enjoy better overall health during adulthood. 
  2. Some studies suggest that activities like dance, art, or music can foster a more fluid approach to problem-solving and conflict resolution. Enrolling them in music lessons or a painting class might actually help them become better communicators.
  3. Talk with them about their likes and dislikes related to virtual schooling, and reward their ability and willingness to do so. This can help you establish boundaries for healthy communication, and the feedback will help you understand their experience and adapt your parenting approach.
  4. Do your best to ensure your kids are insulated from your own adult stressors. Sources of stress that arise from outside the family, like work or financial issues can still negatively affect a child’s development. 
  5. If you suspect your child is having difficulty with virtual learning, ask. Don’t wait for a teacher to reach out to you. Teachers will have the best perspective on their virtual classroom performance; they can also provide valuable insight into how your child is interacting with their peers. 

Tips for Supporting Your Middle or High Schooler’s Personal Growth 

For those of us with adolescents, there’s been a push recently to stop labeling teenagers as universally unruly, lazy, or rebellious. Growing evidence suggests that societal factors, more than changing hormones, contribute to the stereotype of teen angst. When it comes to your adolescents at home, try to: 

  1. Keep in mind that the jury is still out regarding the effects of last year’s quarantine on youth with mental health disorders. If your teen has ADHD, anxiety, depression, or another type of disorder, their symptoms may have worsened during the pandemic. Encourage them to talk with you about what they’re experiencing.
  2. Encourage their autonomy. As hard as it may be, giving your teen a little bit of room to be their own person could really help boost their self-confidence and encourage their autonomy. It might also strengthen your relationship with them as they mature. 
  3. Talk with them about the future. With food shortages, climate change, and future pandemics to contend with, it’s a pretty wild time to become a young adult. Consider their perspective. 
  4. Supporting them isn’t just a way to be a good parent; it might actually create an effective buffer against the stress of going through adolescence, as research published in the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth found. The article “The role of social support in adolescents: are you helping me or stressing me out?” noted parents who are able to be supportive without coming across as overbearing can reduce a teen’s risk of mental illness. 
  5. You’ve probably felt a little bit of extra anxiety over the past year as a result of events that transpired. It makes sense, but keep in mind: Adolescents often closely model their parents. By keeping your own mental health in check, you can set an example—one that might help them cope with their own stress and anxiety later in life. 

Prioritize Building and Celebrating the Connection That You Share 

The importance of socialization in childhood development isn’t a new subject to the field of psychology. So, it makes sense if you’re worried that your child might not re-adjust, or that they’ll be somehow held back because of the effects of virtual learning. However, there’s a difference between parents feeling helpless and taking more time to proactively emphasize social skills. What’s even better is that psychologists are ultimately saying not to worry too much about permanent drawbacks to online learning; kids truly are resilient. 

Even if there have been some short-term drawbacks to virtual learning, your kid’s social skills probably won’t be affected too much. And considering kids go through intermittent phases of development, there will be plenty of time for them to grow, learn and adapt with your guidance. 

You know your kids better than anyone else, so it’s essential to remember that the connection between both of you is ultimately the most important thing. The relationship between a child and their parents is their first opportunity to develop the skills they need to understand and connect with others, and as teens, you serve as a role model that affects their behavior and mental health. So take advantage of that connection—you might just learn something about yourself, too.