GREENSBORO, N.C. — In a recent CBS This Morning interview, best-selling author of the Diary of the Wimpy Kids books Jeff Kinney, talked about his new book and his young readers.
In the interview, Kinney said that he was worried about kids’ mental health because kids are being conditioned to stay away from people and not enter crowds.
Jeff Kinney’s point is valid. With the COVID numbers increasing in our country and some states starting lock downs again, social isolation is going to continue. Depending on how long it takes for the coronavirus to be contained, many children will continue to have extremely limited exposure to other people outside their families.
We’re at about the 9-month mark. It could be another 8 or more months before a vaccine is approved and disseminated.
Social isolation can impact kids’ social skills and friendships. Through play, kids learn to understand the world, solve problems, use their creativity and imagination.
Yes, children play individually, but playing in groups is important as well. Social isolation can lead to loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
When you have to stay at least six feet away and you’re wearing masks then you’re missing on critical nonverbal communication that you rely on to understand people, their emotions, and their intentions.
For example, you can’t see rolled lips, tight lips, swaying jaws, which are indicative of distress, frustration.
Misreads can cause misunderstandings, which lead to unnecessary stress and problems. When kids are able to get physically closer to friends again then their people reading skills might be a little rusty and can contribute to confusion and frustration if they can’t easily recognize others’ emotions.
When kids are in groups, either in sports or playgroups, they’re learning valuable life skills such as social rules, taking turns, speaking up for themselves, cooperating, competing, handling frustrations, handling disappointments.
This isn’t to say that they can’t learn this individually. But being with different people with different personalities is more representative of life before the pandemic. Interacting with people is a necessary life skill. Kids who aren’t sure about joining in groups might find themselves not included in group activities.
One could argue that kids have these opportunities with family. Yes, that’s true. However, we know that kids can be more comfortable with the family who are familiar than with others who don’t know that well.
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