September is Big Brothers Big Sisters Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of the organization and reflect on how important our mission is during an unprecedented pandemic. Studies show physical distancing can lead to social isolation for vulnerable youth. But a mentor can make a positive impact, now more than ever. That’s why we have pivoted to an all-virtual model to continue to provide vital mentors for Jewish youth in our community.
We have also been tracking the research about the impact of physical distancing and social isolation on our youth. One particular article from Healthline.com is worth reading, as it provides a thorough overview of the issues facing youth during COVID.
The article features insights from Amy Learmonth, PhD, a developmental psychologist who has studied children as young as 8 weeks old, looking at how they think and how their abilities change over time. Learmonth runs the Cognition, Memory, and Development Lab at William Paterson University of New Jersey and is also president of the Eastern Psychological Association.
The article also provides helpful pointers parents can use to help their children continue positive social development while they’re stuck at home.
1. Provide opportunities for interactive play
Instead of setting younger kids in front of screens and letting them have hours-long conversations with friends, Walsh suggests having them do something interactive, like playing a board game with family members.
2. Give them outs
“Many of our older kids will need someplace to escape the togetherness of quarantine,” Learmonth said. “This is developmentally appropriate. They miss their friends but are also sometimes stressed by the constant presence of their family.”
She says parents should remain available to provide support while respecting their need for space.
“This is a time of turning toward peer relationships, and we are just not cool anymore. Don’t take this personally. They love you even when they appear to be doing their best to push you away,” she said.
3. Understand their need to be online
“Many teens crave social interaction,” Caswell said. “If we want to keep them inside, it’s important to enable other ways for them to talk with their friends.”
She suggests becoming familiar with the apps teens are using. Help them set necessary safety parameters, and let them know you’ll be asking them to show you what they’ve been doing online from time to time.
“Always be transparent about what you do so they learn from it rather than rebel and circumvent your restrictions,” she said.
4. Encourage exercise every day
Learmonth says that while this may sound irrelevant to social development, “it is important to functioning and will help your child keep their equilibrium in these uncertain times.”