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It’s not very surprising that there’s been an uptick in mental health issues after living in a state of isolation and uncertainty for so long. There’s no guidebook for us to follow, and improvising when it comes to health and safety is not ideal.

“We are already seeing the impact of the pandemic on individuals and families. Stress, anxiety, mood disorders, and family conflict are all on the rise,” says Dr. Alison L. Miller, a psychologist in Lutherville.


Choosing to socialize

Even after the pandemic, the specialists agree that there will probably be an adjustment and healing process. Choosing not to socialize or to stay away from certain situations is perfectly OK.

“It’s important to give yourself a lot of patience and self-compassion,” says Jon Hershfield, MFT, director of Sheppard Pratt’s Center for OCD & Anxiety. “There’s nothing wrong with you, we all need time to adjust.”

But what if you want your kids to socialize more? Perhaps you feel they have been too cooped up, or maybe you are worried about a fall of online learning and little in-person interactions?

Talk to your child and brainstorm ways for them to safely socialize. This not only lets them be included in the conversation, but also helps to lower conflict, says Sarah Fitzsimmons, a licensed therapist in Towson.

She also encourages parents to use the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing” when talking with their child.

“We don’t want to teach kids to be emotionally distant, we want to encourage them to have a physical space bubble but still show that it’s important to have social connections,” she says.

Getting started

OK, so how can kids socialize this fall. FaceTime and Zoom are perfect ways to connect, of course. But it can be difficult for children to stay interested in these types of interaction because they’re all about conversation. And, yes, for many kids they will be a big part of their online learning this fall. In other words, our kids may not be excited about these options at all.

Here are more suggestions from the three specialists we interviewed:

  • Write letters to friends and family
  • Video games that allow children to play together and talk with each other, such as Madden, FIFA, Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite
  • Virtual board games, which can be found at io or unofreak.com
  • Use screen share on Zoom to watch videos together, find a fun game website or use the whiteboard feature
  • Use Facetime or Zoom to play with dolls or dress up, do arts and crafts or create YouTube or Tik Tok videos
  • Sign up for a virtual camp or class
  • Hike
  • Ride bikes
  • Swim
  • Make a bonfire in the backyard
  • Create a treasure hunt around the neighborhood

This story is part of a larger article that will be featured in our October/November issue. Stay tuned for more parenting advice each week. You can also digital versions of the magazine in our archives.

Written by Katie Beecher

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