Some school districts are making plans for in-person classes in the fall, and a lot of thought is going into how to best keep students, teachers and staff safe in the midst of the pandemic. Experts agree social distancing is a proven way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But that can be tough for children and teens.

By nature, human beings are social. So, social or physical distancing goes against nature. This particular piece of the new normal is a tough one for young people. Teenagers want to hang out with their peers, and younger children want to hug and play with the school friends they haven’t seen in months.

So, here’s how parents can help kids make the transition to social distancing:

-First of all, talk to your child about the new safety regulations at school.  Younger kids may have forgotten the old routines anyway, so social distancing just becomes a part of the new routine.

-When you go for neighborhood walks or to the store, show your child examples of how you are interacting with people while staying at least 6 feet away from them.

-Explain to younger children that they should wave to their friends at school, instead of hugging them, so that everyone stays safe from germs.

-When you talk with older children about social distancing and other pandemic safety measures, do it with care and concern, instead of expressing fear.

It’s going to be a learning curve more than anything else for students. But keep in mind, children are very resilient. They can adapt to changes faster than adults.

What can schools do to help with social distancing?

Well, schools are doing things like reducing classroom capacity and spacing desks six feet apart, creating one-way hallways, doing away with large student assemblies, and having children eat in their classrooms instead of the cafeteria. Also, weather permitting, it’s a good idea to hold some classes outside whenever possible.

On the flip side, some schools are opening with remote learning only. How can parents address the lack of social interaction for their child?

Yes, social interaction is very important to a child’s development. When face-to-face interaction is eliminated because of online instruction, make sure your child practices social skills and stays connected from home. Schedule virtual playdates, use video calls to check in on family and friends, host family game nights, and have meaningful conversations with your child.  Regardless of whether classes are remote or in-person, the most important thing is that children have a healthy social and emotional learning experience.