Maintaining Healthy Connections While Social Distancing

Many students and families have now experienced several weeks at home without school and without additional school related activities, like sports, music lessons, play dates, etc. Everyone’s lives have changed unexpectedly; this sudden change can lead to unease—and a natural desire to reach out and connect with family and friends. Yet, there are new limits on all the ways we are accustomed to directly connecting with one another outside of our households.

During this time of social distancing, we need to find ways to creatively achieve social connection. Students (especially older ones) are no doubt longing to reach out and see their friends. The temporary need for social distancing makes this very difficult. How can we best take care of our need to socialize and interact with friends and family? Are there ways to use media that are in line with our school’s policies and your family’s values?

We checked in with our Social Health Coordinator, Ann Meany and our Cyber Civics teacher, Soni Albright for their ideas and advice for maintaining healthy connections while we are practicing the new art of social distancing.

How to Facilitate Healthy Social Connections from a Distance

Here is a list of suggested communication tools and ideas for connecting with friends and family.

Letters/Snail Mail (all ages)
Encourage your children to write letters/draw pictures for friends and family. It is a lovely gesture. Challenge your child to write a letter to each of their classmates. Write about what they have been doing (your adventures, creative activities, hikes, bike rides, good books and good deeds) and how they are feeling. Everyone enjoys receiving a letter and knowing that a friend is thinking of them.

Video Conversations/FaceTime (all ages)
Now that we are less able to have face-to-face conversations, the computer is a good tool to connect to friends and family both near and far. How about planning an afternoon online tea party? Schedule a time, make the tea (and biscuits), and enjoy conversation with special family and friends. How nice to create an opportunity to sit together and share your day! Visits with a grandparent or other special person will help everyone feel connected and are reassuring to children who may feel worried about a special person in their life.

Cell Phone Use
Your child may be yearning to connect with friends. We recommend that you supervise phone use. Encourage phone use to happen in common areas of your home. Remind your child:
  • Kindness is important in our interactions.
  • Remember that it is much easier to understand what is intended in face to face interactions; comments can be easily misunderstood when communicating via email, text, etc.
  • Think about everyone in the class. Challenge your child to reach out and connect with everyone in their class. Exclusion hurts, even if it is not intentional.

Media Recommendations

We know that just two weeks ago, it would have been hard to imagine that your Waldorf School would recommend MORE media for your child. What a surprising world we live in! Instead of looking at it as “more media,” recognize it as a tool we can use to meet some of our essential needs when we are facing certain restrictions (like social distance). 

Technology can assist us in a variety of ways. What do we need? Social interactions? FaceTime, texting, and video chat are all ways that we can connect with other people in the online space. Do we need entertainment? There is plenty of that online, as well. Do we need outdoor time and exercise? Hmmm, online is probably not the best spot for that….though maybe family yoga via Amazon Prime on a rainy day?

Be selective, be honest with yourself about what you and your family need in the moment, and always ask: is this device/app/experience the best way to meet that need right now?

Considering the current situation and the developmental needs of our children, here are a few suggestions for coping with the “should we or shouldn’t we” questions when it comes to media use.

Remember that Passive and Participatory use of media are very different.
Watching a movie isn’t the same as writing a paper online. Watching a video about an embroidery stitch isn’t the same as watching people get punked at the grocery store—be selective! Use the tool as it is intended and resist the urge to binge or go down the rabbit hole of ‘just one more.’

Think about your child’s basic needs as a pie chart.
Ask yourself: Did they get outside today? Did they have time to socialize? Did they make something or do something creative? Did they contribute to our household and were they helpful? Did they complete their school work? Did they spend down time in the absence of (checking, scrolling, watching, listening, playing the game, etc…)? Are they getting a full night’s rest/nap (age dependent)? Did they practice their instruments (3rd grade +)? Strive for a balance of activities in each day.

Don’t be too hard on yourself (or others).
We understand that many parents are trying to work, help their children adapt to distance learning, maintain their homes, juggle multiple ages, and are experiencing increased stress. These suggestions are intended to support you and your family, not add to your stress load. Do what you need to do to help your family maintain a reasonable level of harmony and balance, and don’t be too hard on yourself.

We understand that some families will prefer not to increase the use of media and technology in any way. We respect this and encourage everyone to trust that we are all working towards what is best for our individual families.

Click here to read some ideas from our Educational Support Team, Kerry Miller and Neela Bettaglio, for how to stay connected with ourselves.

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