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Staying Connected

CAN YOU CHAT? Kids are finding creative ways to talk to friends from a distance. CATCHLIGHTS SG/GETTY IMAGES; PATRICK NORMAN—GETTY IMAGES; JAMIE GRILL—JGI/GETTY IMAGES

Maggie Weymouth, 8, says her friends used to love playing with her chickens. She lives on a farm in Clarence, New York. But Maggie’s friends haven’t been able to come around lately. She misses spending time with kids her own age.

Maggie has been home since March. That’s when the coronavirus pandemic forced her school to close. She hasn’t seen her friends in all that time. “I miss playing with them in the backyard,” Maggie told TIME for Kids.

Regine Galanti is a psychologist. She helps kids with anxiety anxiety FATCAMERA—GETTY IMAGES a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease (noun) Spelling tests give me anxiety. and other mental-health issues. She says many kids feel like Maggie does. Galanti and other experts say kids need to socialize. That means to spend time with your peers.

“Socialization is one of the key factors in development,” she says. “It’s one of the most important things that we think about for kids in elementary school.”

New Ways to Connect

Socializing has been put on pause for many kids. That’s because of the pandemic. So how can they keep building necessary social skills?

One way is to keep in touch digitally. Genesis Gooden is 11. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “I keep wondering when this coronavirus is going to be over,” she says. For now, Genesis and her friends connect a few times a month over video chat.

Galanti says one of the best ways to manage digital socialization is to make a schedule. Plan when you’re going to call each of your friends. For example, decide with one friend to chat on Zoom on Mondays. Plan an online gaming session with other friends on Wednesdays. “Build it into the schedule,” Galanti says.

Returning to in-person friendships might feel scary for some kids. But keeping in touch digitally will help. If you’re worried, Galanti has some advice: “Talk it through with an adult you trust.”