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Thursday, 2 September 2021

How to talk to your child about social distancing

Social distancing is becoming trickier than ever because let’s face it — a lot of us have just dropped the idea altogether. So how do you go about explaining to your kid how to dodge hugs while other people are sharing the love? Or worse, how should your child stop sharing anything when you’ve been instilling the idea that sharing is caring for so long? Even without the changing rules, it can be hard, especially for younger kids, to understand what they need to do and why it’s necessary.

Social distancing 101: First things first, as much as social distancing is important, just one year ago the rules were totally different from what they are today, so the trick is to stay relevant and adaptable. Despite the shifting rules — and the public’s appetite for them — the core principles of social distancing pretty much remain the same. Students, teachers, and staff must wear masks at all times, and anyone displaying covid symptoms must stay at home and get tested. US health authorities are now supporting in-person learning but recommend that students be kept at least three feet away from each other. Schools are obliged to enforce those guidelines and teachers must ensure their students are up-to-date with any new rules.

Practice makes perfect: It’s not all down to the schools though: parents should also ensure that their children are aware of what they will need to do when they return to the classroom. Why not try helping your child practice social distancing with their toys? When they’re too close to their toys, they’re in the “hot” zone and thus you should tell them phrases that they can remember whenever they’re around other people. You can also teach them what three feet actually looks like by making them visualize the distance via a measuring tape. Hold one end and let your child hold the other; you can make a game out of it by guessing the correct distance.

Play is an effective way for children to wrap their heads around social distancing: Play is essential for a child’s development and could therefore be an effective tool in teaching your children the essence of social distancing, whether it’s through a sing-along of the Lego Movie’s Hands, Elbows, Face and Space or a game that is designed to teach children the importance of social distancing such as “Can You Save the World?.”

Storytelling for the younglings: Stories grab children’s attention; make sure to use simple and compelling language for children to convey the concept of social distancing. You can download a podcast of “My Hero is You,” a children’s book created by the UN and other agencies about a girl named Sara who rides a winged creature named Ario to educate other children about social distancing. Or you can let their imagination run wild by telling them an original bedtime story about social distancing before sleep.

A more scientific approach for the older kids: If your child’s a bit older, you don’t actually have to treat them like kids. On the contrary, a more scientific approach — one that is used for grownups — is more effective. For the visual learners, this video is a compelling explainer for kids who enjoy science, engineering and art activities in an easy-to-understand format about social distancing.

The misconception about social distancing: While the term “social distancing” has been used colloquially, it is important that children understand the difference between social and physical distancing, USA Today points out. The phrase shouldn’t mean that there’s a social barrier between people, so it’s the parents’ role to encourage their children to engage in more social activities now than ever — while maintaining social distancing, of course.

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