How to Explain Social Distancing to Children?
The coronavirus seems to have countered a deep-rooted belief in human beings: “a hug cures everything.” We’re learning to live without hugs, since avoiding physical contact with others is, among other things, indispensable in eradicating contagion. Now, how can we explain social distancing to our children so that it doesn’t have a negative connotation for them?
It’s precisely the youngest ones who understand that people communicate mainly through body-to-body contact.
What is social distancing in the coronavirus context?
Social distancing refers to maintaining certain physical distance between people. By avoiding body-to-body contact, we can prevent the spread and the possibility of contagion of the virus. As we already know, the virus can be spread when a person talks, sneezes or coughs, and saliva particles reach another person.
Therefore, the famous social distancing in the context of coronavirus refers precisely to maintaining a distance between oneself and other people. A space that we should calculate to be approximately six feet away from the person closest to us.
How to explain social distancing to children?
The need for physical contact is fundamental in the emotional development of babies and children. A caress, a hug, holding hands, etc., are part of learning and recognizing emotions at an early age.
So, developing feelings depends on physical contact between children and those around them, and on how this is internalized. In other words, expression and management of feelings depend on the complexity, quantity and quality of these contacts.
Now, given the presence of the coronavirus in our lives, physical contact that children are accustomed to has suddenly been suspended.
Apart from the people they live with at home, a child must maintain social distance from the rest of their family and friends. It’s quite difficult to make a child understand that they can’t get close to an uncle, grandfather, grandmother, or friend.
Therefore, parents must make their children understand that this is a physical distance, but not a social one. Children must understand the reasons why they should keep away from people they love, without this having a negative impact on them.
It’s necessary for the little ones to adapt, on a psychological level, to a new practice — moving away instead of moving closer. This is something they’re not at all accustomed to, precisely due to their nature.
How to make children understand that further away doesn’t mean less love…
To explain social distancing to our children in a way they can respect and understand in a positive fashion, we can use reasoning such as:
- Explain to them that distance is a way to protect their loved ones, and also themselves.
- Show them that physical distance doesn’t imply emotional distance. In these circumstances, it’s important to resort to technology and social networks to bring together children and their loved ones.
- Encourage them to go out to the park or take walks and have fun during the permitted time intervals. There are children who are afraid to go out, or don’t want to because they can’t get close to their friends. So it’s important to encourage and help them socialize while maintaining the distance.
- Finally, as parents, we must try to comfort and cheer up our children. We must explain to them that this is an exceptional situation, and as such, it won’t last forever. As parents, we must give our children hope that very soon they’ll go back to their daily games and hugs.