Sara, the School Counsellor for The British International School Abu Dhabi, shares with us the importance of friendships and gives some tips about how to promote friendships between children while social distancing.
Since I began working in schools, I made a point to ask the children every year what their favourite part of school was. I was curious about what got them motivated to start their day each morning and what they valued the most about their education. Every year, I got the same answer; ‘my friends.’ It didn’t matter what year they were in, or if they were particularly social or not. It didn’t matter if they were academically high achievers or not. While some answered “PE” or “break time,” most students’ answers had a common theme—they valued connection with their peers. That was where the real fun was, and subjects that allowed for the most connections were the students’ favourite.
If I had to summarise all the scientific literature on the causes of human happiness in one word, that word would be ‘social.’
This didn’t come as a surprise. Interestingly, Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert once said in an interview that “If I had to summarise all the scientific literature on the causes of human happiness in one word, that word would be ‘social.'” (Harvard Business Review, 2012).
Importance of Friendships for Childhood Development
Friendships are extremely important for a child’s development. They can provide:
- A sense of belonging.
- Having time to play freely, which can help younger children develop imagination.
- Interaction with other children, which teaches important life skills such as problem-solving, leadership skills, and managing conflict.
How can we promote friendships between children while social distancing?
While we continue to navigate our way through this novel time, it is important to consider its implications on our social health. With everyone taking appropriate precautions to keep their family safe, socialising can easily become an afterthought. This can result in children feeling isolated and lonely.
Here are a few ways you can promote being social while socially distancing:
Find Creative Ways to Connect Online
Children do not make friends by staring at a screen, try to think of more creative activities online. Some children play video games but there are many other activities online that can help children connect with friends. Please see the link at the bottom of this article for some useful resources.
Encourage Gestures of Friendship and Connection
Encourage your child to surprise their friend with a gift or a gesture such as writing a letter or baking them a cake. Gestures such as this can be delivered at a safe distance. This can encourage your child to be creative without the use of technology and in turn, reduce screen time.
Pick Suitable Activities to Do With Friends
There are so many activities that can be done while still socially distancing such as cycling, kayaking, or horseback riding. Anything that can be done at a 1.5-metre distance can be enjoyed in company. Be sure to wear a mask and use hand sanitiser regularly.
Connect With Your Kids By Having Fun as a Family
We are mindful that not everyone will feel comfortable meeting up at a distance. This is perfectly understandable, but we can still find opportunities to have fun as a family/household. Taking walks, baking, cooking, playing board games, having a p0icnic in your garden, or planning a scavenger hunt can all be great activities to promote your child’s social skills while maintaining social distance.
Connecting with others is an important aspect of mental health, for you and your children. Doing some of the suggested activities can help with the development and maintenance of friendships and social skills even with the current limitations.
Please feel free to reach out to your school’s counselling team, they are there to support you.
Here are some useful links with some more information: