One of the most unfortunate side effects of the COVID pandemic is the impact that limited social interactions have had on our kids. Being quarantined for weeks and sometimes months at a time, avoiding crowded indoor and outdoor spaces, and wearing masks every time you leave the house are all examples of things we’ve had to do over the past year or so. Many kids have been hit particularly hard by these drastic changes in their lives.
While these measures were incredibly important to protect the physical health and safety of our families and communities, they caused mental, emotional and social trauma that has become very noticeable within our students.
From the time we’re born until the day we die, social interactions are key to our growth and development as individuals.
Social relationships with safe adults and peers help students:
- Develop language skills
- Learn how to problem solve
- Ignite creativity
- Practice patience
- Develop empathy
- Build friendships
- Express emotions
Social interactions are so important that they’re considered to be a basic human need. Studies have shown that depriving people of social interactions—especially during the ages of 10-24—can damage their brain and their social development for years to come. Educators are starting to see the repercussions of this trauma within their classrooms.
What caused this emotional trauma and what can we all do to focus on social growth recovery for our students? According to researchers, the physical distancing required during the pandemic is what began this emotional trauma for many of our kids. The period of adolescence already makes people more susceptible to mental health problems, having limited face-to-face interactions and increased isolation and loneliness during this time is sure to have had heightened social and emotional challenges for many kids.
There are things we can do to focus on social growth recovery in the classroom to help students rebuild the interpersonal relationship skills that are critical to their personal and academic success.
Some things that help lessen this emotional trauma include:
- Having positive relationships with safe adults
- Using digital technologies to connect with others
- Promoting face-to-face interactions with peers
- Using social media in safe and healthy ways
Some kids may need additional support such as students of color, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, students with language barriers, students without supportive families at home, and students who were already struggling with mental health issues prior to the pandemic.
Social and emotional growth are as important to the learning process as a good curriculum. Ensuring that all learning components are included in the classroom will ensure positive results for student development.