How to Help Your Kids Make Friends During Remote Schooling

Brynne Conroy

Cartoon boy in backwards baseball hat in front of his home

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

citizenship. 

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

limited.

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

work. 

Games.

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
  • Kahoot
  • Vocabulary.com

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

school hours?

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

peer pressure.

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.