This blog is the third in a series of resources provided by teachers, social workers, clinicians, and therapists from Camp Sequoia’s social skills leadership team. Check out this week’s offering from Head Counselor Bill.
In our Fall newsletter, I wrote an article on “Parenting During the Pandemic”. One of the challenges of parenting a twice-exceptional youth is guiding and building up healthy social interactions. Throw on top of that a pandemic that requires such things as keeping 6 feet apart from others and having to wear a mask and that “Challenge” can seem to be an “Impossibility”.
Being Aware of Social Deterrents (Aside from COVID)
Let’s start with what in “normal” (i.e. non-pandemic) times can often be a deterrent to socialization- technology. While not an ‘ideal’ form of socialization, thanks to COVID-19, we no longer think of how we used to drive as teenagers when we hear “Zoom”. Zoom, like Google Meet, has opened up a whole new world for all of us in our careers, in our parenting, and in our own social lives. While technology now allows us to see and talk with others our own age in a simple format, as always, we need to use caution in what apps our children are accessing- even those that advertise as being social platforms.
For example, the site Omegle.com is becoming more and more popular. But, as you can see from this article, it’s not without its risks. It can be a dangerous site and should not be used by youth. While we want to continue to encourage our kids to socialize during this pandemic, I urge you to monitor their internet usage, both in the moment and their search history. For further details, check out these resources for parents from the non-profit, internetmatters.org.
Consider Writing Letters to Loved Ones & Friends
Now I’m going to show my age. Do you remember the awesome feeling it was to go down to the mailbox as a youngster and see a letter addressed to you? I do! While this is a long-lost art, what a great time to bring it back! In fact, this week I wrote (by hand mind you, not typed) two letters, something I have not done in probably twenty years at least. Time will tell if the recipients write back. Wow, how nice it will be to get something other than bills and junk mail!
I also encourage you to have your children do this by hand. While our reliance on computers brings excellent benefits, there are things that get lost by their use- the ability to write, and even how to spell. While some of us have to take our time writing so the reader can actually read the letter, it is time well spent. We have several kids who in addition to connecting via phone and screen during these pandemic times, have developed a small circle of written correspondence that has included dad jokes, challenges, ideas for graphic novels, and more.
Don’t Forget that Interacting with Family is Social Time
At home, striking the balance between work, school and family which now can all occupy the same physical footprint in a house can be challenging. Family time can sadly also be something that starts to dwindle but is an investment that will reap benefits for years to come. While we think of socialization as spending time interacting with those our age, the skills learned in order to be able to interact with others really starts in the home. I encourage you to think about the amount of time you spend at work (out of the home or virtually in a home office), doing other household tasks, or in your own enjoyment. I am reminded daily, since my son graduates next year, that the time we have with our children is limited and we need to take advantage of that time while we have it.
It is important to find opportunities to converse while playing a board game together, cooking dinner, doing the dishes, or going for a walk. These connectable moments are similar to those we foster at Camp Sequoia to use activities as a tool to intentionally build social and emotional bonds. This increased communication leads to higher levels of trust, social reliance, and buy into the importance of family. There are numerous things that we already do in life that we can easily use as means to connect with our children. Sure, you can do the dishes on your own or assign it as a chore, but why not do them together? Cooking dinner? I’m sure you can use a sous chef to grab things from the pantry, open cans, stir the pasta…you get the idea. While these remain challenging times for both kids and adults, having social connections and a meaningful social network will serve parents, children, and families well — long after this pandemic is over.
Bill has expertise as a school counselor, school administrator and currently sits on his local school board in addition to serving the young men of Camp Sequoia as our head counselor.