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Building Social Skills While Social Distancing

Throughout the pandemic, the following message has been emphasized – keep physically distant, not socially distant from one another. How does this look for our children and teens?

There are still many opportunities to build on social skills, even if you’re engaging in online learning or keeping your cohort small. You are likely already engaging in some of these activities at home, so let’s take a closer look at what skills you’re supporting.

1. Video Chatting

As we connect with family and friends alike, video chatting has become a great way to stay in touch. As you begin chatting, you’ll be working on many aspects of communication including:

  • Greeting – Saying ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ to the person on the other end
  • Conversational rules – It is not uncommon to ask how the other person is doing after greeting them
  • Reading verbal and non-verbal cues (e.g., recognizing that “Well, it was really nice chatting with you.” may be a sign that the other person needs to go)
  • Introducing topics – This can be an intimidating part of the call! It may be helpful to brainstorm one thing to share before the call​

2. Board Games

No matter what type of game you’re playing, you are practicing some key social communication skills including:

  • Turn-taking – This skill is practiced as you play the game and as you make conversation
  • Asking and answering questions – During moments of confusion, there may be a need to ask for clarification
  • Sustaining attention and engagement – We’ve all been there – someone pulls out their phone during the game and it causes a delay in the game. This is great practice for adults and children alike!​

3. Ordering Food

While apps make it possible to get your meal in a few clicks, ordering food on the phone is a great opportunity to stretch a teen out of their comfort zone. For many, talking on the phone is a foreign concept! For a task like this, it will be helpful to create a script and a plan (i.e., you’ll want to know what you want to order before calling!). Skills you’ll be working on include:

  • Using appropriate greetings – Using more general greetings instead of saying, “Yo!” (I’ll be honest, I don’t how teens greet each other nowadays)
  • Listening and responding to what the other person is saying – The person on the other line may not ask questions about how you’re doing if it’s a busy night. You may need to jump into the task at hand (e.g., “I’d like to order some take out.”).
  • Asking for repetition and clarification

These are just a few ideas for supporting children and teens with their social communication. Know that even during dinner time chats or everyday conversations, you are continuing to support your children in all the right ways.

Learn more over at our Speech-Language Therapy page.