Strengthening social connections during corona days
Dr. Maly Danino, CEO Nitzan
Prior to the Corona pandemic crisis we were forced to cope with an alarming process, in which the playground moved into the virtual world. The social networks have replaced human discourse, shifting it to a digital dimension of Characters and images.
This type of communication prevents us from seeing each other’s facial expressions and body language, listening to his or her tone and responding accordingly. Therefore we might hurt a friend more easily, because it is difficult for us to comprehend his feeling and decode them. Every day we were exposed in the media to children telling about social rejection, boycott at school or shaming on the web. The Corona pandemic crisis and the social distancing imposed on us have reduces these phenomena.
From conversations we conducted with children, we learn that they are in contact with fewer friend, and because they cannot meet each other, they prefer to communicate over the phone or via video chat and less in writing. The children feel closer to their friends, and because of the current situation, the slander, and the boycott, seem to have given way to solidarity, expressions of empathy and deeper friendship.
The number of friends and the depth of the relationship
Children differ in the degree of interest they have in other children, some are surrounded by friends and others less so. We know that a child may many friend on Facebook or Instagram, but that doesn't mean he has one true friend with whom he can talk when needed and share what's going on. So what happens to friendships in the Corona days? How do they change?
The first question we asked the children during these conversations was:
Are you in contact with more friends these days or less? How did the relationship change?
Some of the answers we received:
" I have kept away from some of the friends I don’t get to speak with so much at the moment. I don’t think I can keep close contact with them now, but I am certain that when we will go back to school it will be back to what it was”.
“I am in contact with fewer friends right now, but spend a lot of time with them. There are children in my classroom that don’t like the video chats because they are sick and tired of the screen. I am in touch with whomever I want to talk with, even girls that are no from my school, from after school program, dance class. These are the same friends I had before but the bond between us strengthened because we are together all day”
"I am in close contact with fewer friends, in general the amount of friends did not decreased at all and maybe even increased. Al the children from my class speak all the time. Contact with close friends was damaged a bit, or rather, changed. My close friends are from my play group and one kid from my class. Before it was less”.
“My circle of friends did not change, however, with friends I did not meet frequently because I did not have time, the relationship strengthened. If every day there is no time to meet, or there is nothing for, then these days it is the only thing to do”.
“We do not take our friendship for granted, we keep it from being ruined because then we will not have anyone to talk with. We revived and old group that was formed for a school project, and now we correspond constantly”.
Presence on the web
To our question: Are you more present in the social media?
The children answered:
“Now there is more presence, we are on Instagram, because there is nothing else to do. I and my friends are constantly checking the story, checking that everyone is okay. We are all day in video chats, really, my mom threatens to take my phone away because of it.
“Wow, much more presence, we are constantly in front of the screen. I used to have 3 hours of screen time a day, this week I had 7 hours!"
“We talk on every media. I personally surf more on social networks, there is always talking in our group. There is not a minute without messages, everyone is in contact all the time”.
“On Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, Snapchat, Tik Tok. Until yesterday I met with my friends now it’s impossible, it switches to the phone, we talk less but we are in the social media all the time”.
“I am in screen much more than I use to be, I play, write, and homework via distance learning, all in the smartphone.
Children today spend more time in the screen than they were used to in normal times. This is an opportunity to teach them how to conduct a significant discussion online, in which they will acquire the skill to conduct deeper conversations.
Parent have an important place in the occurrence and behavior of the family unit. The family is shifting to be a kind of independent social group and the nature of the interaction in which the home is run affects the learning and the way children learn to interact and talk to those around them.
If we go back in time, we could remember how we used to talk with our best friends on the phone for hours on. This was lost with the evolving of the social media and the short digital communication. Children today don’t talk as much and even discourse with the parents and close family members is very limited. This skill called “conversing” was lost a little, now we have the opportunity to develop it. The more the child speaks and practices the discourse, the more he will learn to use his or her speaking and listening skills. He will learn to listen to the other person and develop empathy for him. It does not have to be just with friends, it could also be with grandparents, with a cousin he did not meet for a long time, and more importantly, with his or her parents at home.
Perception on the situationTo the question
What do you have to say about the situation in general?
The children replied:
“I feel “down”, because it is impossible to meet with friends, what was possible only yesterday. So we are on the phone all the time, and we do our homework on the phone as well”
“The situation is a little complicated with sensitive children that may destressed by it”
“ I am a little stressed that I will have nothing to do” “It hard for me, I want to see my friends, and play with them and I cannot”………
“It is irritating, stuck at home. It’s true that it is like a vacation but when you are forced To stay home it’s not fun. I prefer to study at school for 6 hours than two hours at home. There are many online assignments that we have to complete at certain time and it stresses me, they do not explain well and the site gets stuck because of heavy traffic, it’s really hard. And with attention deficit disorder it’s even more difficult."
From what the children say we can learn how difficult is this situation for them and are afraid that they will have nothing to do. There is an opportunity here for an activity they are not used to, choose and face new challenges, not only educational, but also social. For example; we could encourage the child to contact and elderly neighbor who cannot see his family now and relieve his loneliness, write a nice letter to an isolated patient at home or in the hospital, think about a less popular student in his class, call him to check how he is doing.
This is how we teach our child to think about another person, show empathy and develop tolerance and compassion towards him.
How to encourage compassionate and empathetic behavior
Children learn to interact with those around them by observation, therefore it imperative to allow them opportunities for social learning and help them mediate their emotions. The parent could for example speak with a mother of one of his classmates and initiate a conversation between the two, while realizing the child’s difficulty to make the first move even though he misses him.
After the conversation it is important to talk to the child and ask how he felt about it, to develop the discourse that was between them. The child will learn to conduct an in-depth discourse by watching his parent conducting such a close, relaxed and pleasant discourse. Only then will the child learn to express his feelings and be empathetic to others.
Parents should be aware of the child's situation, try to understand the nature of his relationships with his friends and not ignoring it. However, we recommend not pressuring him to be in touch with friends or ask him why he is not talking with one friend or another or meet him online, as this may achieve the opposite. Our goal as parents is to empower the child's capability, to encourage him to make social connections and to help him understand the subtext, what is said beyond words.
Needless to say, we must be aware to any sign of distress, and reach out for professional help when in need.
The situation in which everyone is forced to stay home creates a “pressure cooker”, more fighting and temper tantrums, more “I’m bored” moments, and impatience. It is recommended that parent channel each quarrel to teaching the child how to solve a conflict and how to develop a perspective to the feeling of others, for example: “when you were angry at……you thought only of yourself and not of…….and his difficulty”. There is an opportunity here to understand the other and to learn from the quarrels that happen in the house anyway. Of course, it is best to try not to interfere when siblings quarrels, but if there is no choice, you should achieve some social learning from them.
Tips for parents
The presence of children on screens these days is not negative and can be benefited with the help of guidance and mediation.
It is important to consider the nature of the child's activity on the network and not only the time he spends in it, talk to him about what is happening to him there and share his experiences.
Encourage your child to maintain and nurture social relationships and put his time in them, they are no less important than online learning.
It is okay if the child is bored, boredom is not a bad thing, it helps develop the thinking and imagination which are important for his development.
Quarrels between the brothers are an opportunity to teach them how to resolve conflicts and therefore, it is advisable to let them resolve them on their own.
You as parents have now a window of opportunity, teach your child to develop empathy and compassion for each other and learn what friendship is.
It is advisable to expose your child to volunteer activities and help for others, to share and show the contribution of good people these days. It is worth thinking about which way he would like to contribute during this time and to whom (grandparents, classmate, cousin and more).
In order to implement the suggestions, it is important that you the parents, have your "oxygen mask". Find the balance between the various tasks, take time out for sports activities, read or watch a movie, relax and store positive energy so you can work optimally.