TORONTO — As easing pandemic restrictions give children the chance to get together with friends, and with the return to school just weeks away, a children’s therapist offers advice and activities to help prepare for in-person interactions after months of isolation.
Kids and parents alike may be looking to the fall with anxiety as they readjust to social situations they’ve been cut off from since pandemic lockdowns began.
“It’s not uncommon that we’re hearing […] kids are getting either overly stimulated or exhausted by social interactions, it definitely is trouble,” Tania DaSilva, youth and family therapist, told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.
But don’t fret, DaSilva offers parents and children five activities they can do to prepare for a resurgence of social interactions.
Role plays, says DaSilva, are a good way to practise social situations, and giving kids the option to pick the situation can help them navigate interactions they’re most anxious about.
“You actually get to practise those in a non-threatening environment and you can redo them as many times as you want,” she said.
It allows kids to build confidence in their social abilities, knowing what the outcomes of various interactions might look like and how they could play out, she added.
MEDIA AND BOOKS
Another way to engage with children to prepare them for the onslaught of social interactions in their future is by meeting them on their level and talking about the things that interest them to gauge their ability to communicate.
“If kids are really into a specific TV show or character YouTuber, you can now use that, and they’re going to want to talk to you about it, and then you can actually start dissecting their social skills,” said DaSilva.
Another activity DaSilva recommends is called ‘if, then’, where children get to play out certain social situations so that they can learn how their actions and words have an impact.
“We’ll take those social situations either that have happened or passed, and then we look at: ‘if I do this, then what will happen’ or ‘if I did this, then what might the outcome be’,” she said. “It really helps kids start developing that connection between actions and reactions and showing them that your actions actually impact your outcomes.”
EXPECTED AND UNEXPECTED
Similar to the if, then activity, expected and unexpected activity plays out like I Spy, where children are presented with situations and they point out what is expected, and what is not. An example would be to ask what is expected if they went to the library: being quiet, finding books, seeing a librarian.
“What this does is it actually helps them start developing an understanding of social norms and expectations, and essentially creating a list of what is the expected behaviour in the social situation,” she said.
Finally, it’s time to put the activities to work 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: what are the gaps that I’m seeing and how can I build them and what social interaction might be the best for them,” she said.
And the best time to start, according to DaSilva, is now.