My son broke my heart the other day, as the lockdown emerged.
“Supermarkets say they sell all the essentials, don’t they mum? So will they have my friends there?”
Let’s not underestimate the impact this weird era of self isolation, social distancing and home schooling is having on our children. This new world we find ourselves in has meant we’ve had to rip up the rulebook on a lot of things, including social media – given it’s now the only form of contact kids can have with their mates.
As parents, we’re making rules on the fly. Who knows what will work and what may cause problems in the end, but for now the most important thing (I think) is to enable them to feel socially connected, not isolated, and hopefully protect their mental health by doing so.
So my son is now an avid player of Minecraft and roadblox, He’s still not allowed upstairs to do it but he is allowed it at lunch and in the evening each day – unthinkable just a couple of months ago. He’s also allowed on some of the social video sites like Zoom and House party as well as facetiming others individually.
Just weeks ago, this freedom would’ve been a ridiculous ask from him, but just as we grown ups are finding it difficult to adjust, so are the children. I knew this, but my little boy had seemed to be taking things in his stride, still my happy puppy just bouncing along, lapping up all the changes day by day. But after his supermarket comment, I realised how deeply this was also impacting him. We are all processing these life-limiting changes in our own way. Some days I cry, others I feel angry or frustrated or scared – as do we all. For no one is this where we expected to be at the start of 2020.
One silver lining, and of course, we do need to look for the positives where we can find them, is that my son seems to be thriving with the social media friendships.
Previously quite a shy child who was, to be honest, a little socially awkward, with some characteristics and preferences (liking barbies not football for example) that meant he found peer friendships and acceptance tricky.
He now seems to be flourishing socially.
He loves the calls from his other mates. They seem to find joy in working out the tech glitches associated with team video calls (as opposed to me who only finds them a source of frustration). He loves that his friend calls him many times in and hour and has, for the first time, a feeling of confidence that he is fitting in.
In this new outside-prohibited world, where football with mates is now on the banned list, could it be that my teckkie boy is finding their groove.
For us, this seems to be working for now. For others who have more sporty children, this is proving increasingly difficult – like keeping caged animals penned in cruel conditions. Just such a friend had two windows smashed by day two, after footballs being batted around the house went rogue.
Staying indoors is not easy or natural for any of us, especially children, especially in the spring.
We can only do what we can to help them stay connected with friends and encourage their social interaction in whatever new forms they find interesting and engaging (albeit with the caveat of usual social safety precautions in place etc).
Hopefully this will help protect their mental health through this ordeal.
Bright Horizons Work+Family Content Team