The Pandemic had a major impact on children’s socialization skills

- Here's how the education industry can help them bounce back

Without the ability to interact with other children, our youth have been falling behind in the development of essential life skills, such as taking turns, sharing, following a schedule and communicating with others, which in turn can have a negative impact on academics. 

While children are lower at risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus, the psychological effects of the global pandemic have hit society’s youngest members especially hard. In particular, children in preschool and early primary grades have been most vulnerable as they are at a critical time of social and intellectual development, according to a 2020 study released by the Canadian Journal of Public Health. As schools remained closed across the country, children lost an entire year’s worth of social stimulation they would have normally experienced outside their home. Now, parents remain rightfully concerned about how the pandemic has impacted their children’s long-term social development, and as a result their academic development. 

Socialization is a key component to a child’s early education. Children are naturally social creatures and in many ways, “play” is how they learn essential life skills and stimulate synaptic connections in the early stages of development. Due to the isolation and lack of social interaction over the past year, children have not only fallen behind in this regard, but they may also be hesitant or anxious to return to the in-person classroom as schools and learning centers start to reopen permanently. While parents should work with their pediatrician to determine how the pandemic has impacted their child specifically, there are a few tips on how to prioritize children’s development of social skills moving forward.

For example, creating a diligent schedule can go a long way in helping children adjust to new environments. As parents tried to juggle working from home and virtual schooling over the past year, some days their children never got out of their pajamas. This lack of structure can have an overall negative impact on a child’s emotional well-being — a proper schedule is proven to eliminate stress, which allows children to better develop healthy social and academic habits. 

A great way to ease children back into a social environment is with a hybrid approach where children attend child care in-person on a part-time basis and then are home or with relatives the remaining days of the week. Parents are surprised at how quickly their child adjusts to being back in a group care setting and a new environment. Children are excited to see their friends and learn with their teachers, which in turn provides parents with the peace of mind they need, knowing their child will thrive and benefit from a five-day or full time program. 

Luckily, the future of a child’s socialization isn’t completely reliant on the parents. Across the board, school districts and supplemental education centers have also been prioritizing the social and emotional health of their students. Some child care centers even offer yoga and mindfulness programs that are incorporated into the daily curriculum, for example. During the adjustment period coming back to school, children may become angry and anxious, so the education marketplace will likely pay more attention to these self-soothing practices moving forward. 

In addition to incorporating mindfulness and anti-anxiety activities into the curriculum, educators will likely be more focused on encouraging play and collaboration through STREAM classes. When children can collaborate with peers in a classroom, it encourages the development of essential life skills, such as taking turns, sharing, following a schedule and communicating with others. 

Looking ahead, elementary schools, supplemental education centers and parents should all understand that most children are going to be developmentally behind in one way or another. Hopefully, the COVID-19 crisis will help the general population recognize that children’s social development is just as important as their schoolwork, and that the two are inherently linked. By keeping social and emotional development at the forefront of everyone’s mind, we can help children return to a healthy school routine, reduce their anxiety and ensure academic success.

Jennifer Romanoff, MA ECE, is a trainer of early childhood teachers, center administrative teams and owners.  A published author of three books on responding to toddler behavior, Jennifer has been teaching and training in the early childhood education field for over 29 years.  She has presented nationally both through live sessions and webinars.  As VP of Education and Training for Lightbridge Academy, Jennifer also creates trainings to support best practices, excellence in education and the accreditation process.  A supervisor series of trainings, developed specifically for center administrative teams and child care owners, as well as a distance learning training module are Jennifer’s current focus, utilizing a production studio, an online learning platform, and virtual classroom capabilities.  Jennifer is the proud mom of a 19-year-old daughter Madelin, and two fur babies, Scarlett and Buttercup.