As many schools operate completely online to protect local communities from the Coronavirus
pandemic, kids are learning to make new friends remotely.
It’s not easy. This is new for everyone; your child is bound to hit road bumps.
To bring you some perspective, we asked Penny -- a personal finance blogger and middle school teacher
in the Midwest -- to share some tips to facilitate social interactions in the era of remote schooling.
How teachers are facilitating online social opportunities.
“We need to state the obvious: eLearning is not intended to replicate the classroom experience,” says
Penny. “It can't. However, there are myriad ways that students can socialize and interact remotely.”
First, discuss digital citizenship.
Penny says that one of the most important things you can do is talk to your child about digital
Once they understand appropriate behavior, safety measures and the fact that anything they do online
is forever, you can feel a little better about them having independent interactions with their peers in
this new format.
Small group work.
Penny and other teachers are integrating these social opportunities into the school day. One way this is
done is through small group work or partner work. Remember that even if your child doesn’t like group
work, these assignments are all the more important in an environment when social opportunities are
In other words, the point of the assignment might not actually be creating a presentation on US land
formations. The point is likely learning how to work with others.
If you have an elementary-aged child, Penny says centers may take the place of small group or partner
Games are an integral way to teach children social skills, like communication, turn-taking and
sportsmanship. There are a myriad of games children can play online, or they can set up a Zoom call to
facilitate a normal board game like Battleship.
If you’re looking for some educationally-endorsed games, Penny uses the following with her students:
- Quizlet Live
Elementary students may be interested in interactive games like Prodigy Math or PlayingCards.io.
Setting social emotional learning goals.
If virtual games and group work aren’t cutting it, you can always talk to your school about setting social-
emotional learning goals for your child.
“Our team and our school are working on hosting different grade levels and small group sessions -- and
even days where they can explore different topics and create things,” says Penny.
She says the counselors at her school are working on activities to meet these needs. In one instance,
they gave the students time to write down things that make them happy. Then, they upcycled materials
they found around their homes to create Happiness Jars.
“Most importantly,” Penny says, “the counselors walked them through how to use the jars to center
themselves when things feel chaotic.”
How do I create online socialization opportunities for my child outside of school hours?
Social goals inside school hours are one thing. But how do you create these same opportunities outside
Ask your child’s teacher.
Penny’s first suggestion is to reach out to your school for suggestions.
“[Contact] teachers, counselors -- anyone you feel comfortable connecting with,” she says. “No, we
don't get too many emails. Yes, we want to hear from you. The reason to reach out is that they know the
technology and the tools that students have access to, so they would likely be able to suggest something
that is easy to implement.”
She also points out that by simply asking about social opportunities as a parent, schools are more likely
to incorporate more of that socialization into the school day.
Ask your public library.
Her next resource is your public library.
“Many are teaming up with local schools to offer support and different virtual programming that has a
social component,” Penny says.
Set your own boundaries.
As you set up socially-distant get-togethers for your children, you’re bound to run into parents who are
not taking the same steps you are. While you’ve done everything from cyber schooling to updating your
will, there are some families living as if COVID-19 was not potentially lethal. The social hurdles we have
to jump through as parents during this time can be exhausting, too.
Before you reach out to other parents to set up social opportunities between your children, have a
family talk establishing strong boundaries about what kind of social behavior is acceptable during the
pandemic, and what’s not.
Don’t just discuss the rules; discuss what you will say when you encounter pushback from friends or
other parents who want to meet in person, or those who demean your efforts to keep your family safe.
The situation will still be awkward, but preparing for it will help both you and your child to not cave in to
Online Yahtzee and Zoom partner work are not ideal, but they can help ameliorate some of the isolation
brought on by these difficult times while still allowing you to keep your family safe.