As the pandemic continues, many of us have discovered that community and social interaction is not a luxury, but a necessity. While technology gives us amazing opportunities to spend time with others without even needing to be in the same country, it can’t provide the closeness of a shared meal, fireside jam session, or hug. And children—who crave near-constant attention and communication—are bearing the brunt of it. So, to keep you and your family sane as COVID-19 goes on, here are some tips for keeping your sense of community alive and flourishing.
Give Your Kids the Mic
Nothing is more frustrating than feeling like your voice isn’t heard, and for children, that feeling can come very often. So, the next time you’re having a phone or video chat with family, try setting aside a few minutes to let all the kids in the call put in their two cents. It may not seem like a lot, but it can go a long way towards making your kids feel heard and included.
Take Them on Tour
Seeing certain people every day and then suddenly never seeing them at all can be a shock for kids. For example, lots of little ones are no longer attending daycare or preschool and may miss their caregivers and teachers. One way to restore a sense of care and familiarity is (safe and scheduled) visits. With a drive-by “house call”, kids can say hello, see a familiar face, and keep a sense of connection with their community—all without even leaving the car. Just be sure to call or text ahead to make sure everyone is comfortable with the home visit and the timing.
One of the best ways to feel connected with your community is to help others in need. And since children crave connection and love being “helpers”, it’s easy to find ways to involve them in community service activities. For example, they can help you organize canned goods for food drives or make cards for those who aren’t able to have visitors. Even very young children have skills for helping, such as filling a giveaway bag or picking up trash. The satisfaction they’ll feel from making someone’s life a little better will be priceless.
Have Virtual Playdates
Finally, kids will always need to be around people their own age. Parent and older sibling connections go a long way, but peer play is an irreplaceable part of growing up. So, about once a week, reach out to the parents of your kids’ buddies and arrange a 3- or 4-person group chat. Depending on their ages and interests, they could have a virtual tea party or play a game like charades or 20 questions. The ideas they can come up with all on their own are endless.
Community looks very different these days, and it could be a long time before things go back to normal, or we adjust to a new normal. And while kids have a lot of needs, they are also incredibly resilient and adaptable, and able to make their own “normal” out of nearly anything. These simple tips can go a long way to maintaining—and even building—a lasting sense of community and connection.