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Safe social interaction for kids

Not enough social contact can lead to increased depression, anxiety, and anger.

WACO, Texas — Whether students are returning to school in person or online, social interaction won't be the same as previous years due to health guidelines.

Diamante Maya and Katie Chadwell, both child and adolescent therapists at the MHMR Klaras Center for Families in Waco want parents to know being socially distant doesn't mean social isolation.

"I'd encourage parents to think of it more as putting physical distance but maintaining social connectedness," Maya said.

When coming up with way for your kids to stay connected to their peers, think outside the box and be creative. Kids can be on a video call and play games like charades, Pictionary, have scavenger hunts or just talk. If they go outside, they can kick a ball around, ride bikes, or have a picnic all while staying distant and safe.

"Social interaction is how kids learn things like reading social queues, having empathy for others, having social awareness, learning social norms, you know learning how to share how to follow rules,” Chadwell said.

Not enough social contact can lead to increased depression, anxiety, and anger.

"Social connectedness improves children's chances of showing resilience to adversity, it helps them regulate mood, stay grounded, feel less alone, and manage stress,” Maya said.

Chadwell and Maya’s message to everyone is that as humans, we are meant to connect with others.

“Once a week interaction is not enough, not for teenagers, not for little kids and not even for toddlers,” Chadwell said.

Kids typically have eight hours of social interaction every weekday when they are at school. For those who will be learning from home, although they recommend meeting in-person, they said video call is the next best thing for children.

“Whatever you’re trying to do for your child is enough and even if you feel like you’re messing up sometimes as long as you’re there and you’re balancing things as best as you can and you’re trying to show your child love, that is what’s enough,” Chadwell said.

They recommend setting up ways for your kids to socialize several times a week, especially if they're learning from home.

“Children and families overcome obstacles on a regular basis, even in a pandemic there are people who are struggling through tremendous stress and difficulty,” Maya said. “So we as a people are resilient people, children are resilient, parents are resilient, adults and we as society can be a resilient society.”

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