TORONTO – With the easing of pandemic restrictions giving kids the opportunity to hang out with friends, and with returning to school just weeks away, a child therapist offers advice and activities to prepare for face-to-face interactions after months of isolation.
Children and parents may watch the case with fear as they readjust to social situations from which they have been cut off since the pandemic lockdown began.
“It’s not unusual for us to hear […] Children are either overly stimulated or exhausted from social interactions, it’s definitely anger, “Tania DaSilva, youth and family therapist, told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.
But don’t worry, DaSilva offers parents and children five activities they can do to prepare for a resurgence in social interactions.
Role-playing games, DaSilva says, are a great way to practice social situations, and allowing children to choose the situation can help them master interactions that they are most concerned about.
“You can actually practice these in a non-threatening environment and you can repeat them as often as you want,” she said.
It enables the children to build confidence in their social skills and to know what the results of various interactions might be and how they might develop, she added.
MEDIA AND BOOKS
Another way to get in touch with children to prepare them for the onslaught of social interactions in their future is to meet them at their level and talk about the things that interest them to gauge their communication skills.
“If kids are really into a particular TV show or character YouTuber, now is the time to take advantage of that, and they’ll want to talk to you about it, and then you can actually start analyzing their social skills,” DaSilva said.
Another activity that DaSilva recommends is called “If, Then”, in which children play through certain social situations so that they can learn how their actions and words work.
“We take the social situations that have happened or that have passed and then look at, ‘If I do this, what will happen’ or ‘If I do, what might be the result,'” she said . “It really helps kids develop that connection between actions and reactions, and show them that your actions actually affect your outcomes.”
EXPECTED AND UNEXPECTED
Similar to the If-Then activity, expected and unexpected activities play out like I Spy, where situations are presented to children and point out what is expected and what is not. An example would be what to expect when they go to the library: be quiet, find books, visit a librarian.
“This actually helps them develop an understanding of social norms and expectations and, essentially, make a list of expected behavior in the social situation,” she said.
Finally, it is time to put the activities into action by engaging in social activities. DaSilva said this could be done through various programs or maybe even a team sport.
“You really just want to think about it: what gaps do I see and how can I build them up and what social interaction might be best for them,” she said.
And according to DaSilva, the best time to start is now.