How to help children readjust to the return of social engagements


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After a year of isolation and limited social interaction, it can be a challenge for some people to readjust to social engagements. It can also be challenging for parents to get their children excited about participating in activities again.

“During the pandemic, I feel like there are two groups of people,” said Elizza LeJeune, a clinical social worker at Pine Rest. “There are a lot of people who loved being in the house and it’s like I don’t have to go out, I don’t have to do these social engagements. You know, no birthday parties, I can just be in my safe place. Then there are people who are like, I miss being around other people that are really extroverted. So, the same happened with children as well.”

Between getting pulled from school, not being able to spend as much time with friends and not having many activities to get involved in last summer, LeJeune says the return of social activities can cause some understandable anxiety. There are, however, some things she said parents can do to help with this. 

First, she says it’s important to prepare your child in advance when there is something coming up that they have to go to. Establishing a routine also helps because many kids lost that during the pandemic. Give your kids options of activities to choose from and ease into it by getting them involved in things with fewer people to start off so that they aren’t overwhelmed.

LeJeune says you can also offer rewards or free time after the kids do the things they have to do.

“I think that really being in tune with what your child needs, discussing plans with them, giving them an option, right? If your child is like I don’t want to do anything, I’m like, well, that’s not acceptable. We have to at least do two summer activities. Here’s the list. We can come together on a decision about it but there has to be something planned.”

LeJeune added that there are extremes on both ends of the spectrum.

If a child refuses to do anything, for instance, throwing a tantrum no matter what they’re asked to do, that’s when it might be time to seek professional help because there might be something else going on. 

“If it’s a developmental thing if it’s something with extreme anxiety or fear. Sometimes (obsessive compulsive disorder) in children can present that way with extreme thoughts of like, OK, if we leave the house, something bad might happen to someone that I love. So, I don’t want to leave the house at all. Parents might not understand that because it’s hard for a kid to articulate.”

The biggest piece of advice LeJeune offered is to be patient, understanding and remember that communication is key. 

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