Staying connected during COVID
Friends are important to positive youth development. Developing friendships is about more than just having a good time; friendships teach children very important life lessons like communication, conflict resolution and cooperation. Friendships are important to social and emotional development, and they help youth learn social skills needed to be successful in life, at home and at school.
Children need opportunities for face-to-face communication to develop social skills. Social skills are more than just manners – they teach people to get along with others and communicate effectively. With COVID-19 and children spending less time in school and other in-person activities, developing social skills can be difficult, but not impossible.
Continue to encourage and facilitate time for children to interact with their peers and others. This is a great time to teach the lost art of letter writing, as well as being creative when it comes to virtual hang outs. Also, many youth development organizations are still offering meetings and fun online activities where youth can engage with other children and adults in a safe, supervised setting that follows social distancing and safety guidelines.
Make sure to schedule time online with friends and relatives where youth can “hang out” – cooking together and reading books are just two examples of hands-on activities people can do together virtually. Programs like 4-H have developed several virtual opportunities for youth to participate in fun, hands on activities like virtual scavenger hunts, Pen Pal programs, trivia, special interest clubs like cooking, STEM, sewing and more.
Another important form of communication is showing gratitude to others. Encourage children to make and send thank you cards and care packages to first responders and frontline workers – this will teach empathy as well as gratitude, and is also an excellent way to continue to serve the community during this unprecedented time.
For information on virtual 4-H opportunities, contact your local Extension Service – in West Virginia it is WVU Extension Service, and in Ohio it is OSU Extension Service.
Jodi L. Smith is the WVU Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development.