Helping Children Feel Connected While Social Distancing

Yoga class at Barrow Street Nursery School

“Connections to trusted adults and a sense of safety are fundamental to healthy emotional development in children,” says Barrow Street Nursery School Director, Nicole Pappas Ferrin. “With the disconnect from loved ones and normal routines, children are challenged in these fundamental areas. It’s important to pay attention to how children are handling the separation from loved ones and friends, and to continue to nurture these connections as social distancing continues.”

Contact with teachers, caregivers and other family members who offer security has shifted dramatically, and in some cases maybe has ended altogether. While this forced separation may have at first felt similar to school vacation, the longer living in a state of sheltering in place continues, the more frightening it may seem. “It is important that young children know that loved ones, adults and friends, have not disappeared. Parents or caregivers can help nurture these connections by demonstrating new ways to stay in touch,” says Nicole. “These messages of care need to be continually reinforced, especially when there is a prolonged physical separation.”

Incorporate activities that emphasize connection into your children’s days. Some options are:

· Organizing a Show and Tell over video chat with friends, where kids can give tours of their room, introduce their pets and share cherished belongings with children who might not have visited your home yet

· Coloring a picture or writing a letter and mailing it to a family friend

· Baking cookies to leave on a neighbor’s doorstep

· Video chatting with a relative who lives alone · Making a rainbow to hang in your window and joining the worldwide rainbow scavenger hunt

· Working together with your neighborhood to create a new scavenger hunt of your own

· Making chalk drawings and messages of hope and gratitude around your neighborhood

These kinds of activities help children understand their role as being a part of a community. “Historically, the connection communities have provided have helped to foster a feeling of kindness and care for others,” says Nicole. “Empowering children to become a productive member of their community will help them feel safe and secure during these uncertain times.”