Tips to Engage Children Remotely
Since the start of COVID-19, businesses and organizations everywhere have had to get their staffs used to working from home. However, organizations that work with youth are additionally challenged at this time to effectively engage children remotely.
According to Youth Today, professional counselor, parent educator and coach Gloria Sherman says that although it’s better than having nothing, using Zoom or other apps doesn’t provide the emotional connection of face-to-face interaction with children and teens. She adds that while we use technology, it’s also important to understand that the main need for children is “an emotional connection and supportive environment.”
When children eventually go back to school, “everyone is going to focus on what the kids have been missing [academically],” Gloria says. “But the biggest thing that’s going to help kids is building that sense of family and social connection.”
Youth Today reports that, in a recent survey of 3,300 students ages 13-19, “Three-fourths of the students said that when their schools shifted to remote learning they spent only from one to four hours a day doing schoolwork. More than one-fourth said they had lost sleep because they felt unhappy, under strain or a loss of self-confidence. Students said they worried about health, family finances and their education. Thirty percent said they were worried about basic needs, such as food, medicine or safety. One-fourth of the students said they did not feel at all connected to their classmates, adults and school.”
Children are less able to focus and learn when experiencing stress, which is difficult to avoid during a global pandemic that has changed their way of life. Furthermore, as each child responds differently to what they’ve experienced during COVID-19, we can’t address their needs and anxieties if we don’t simply ask them what they are feeling.
“Yes, we do need to pay attention to curriculum, but we need to help children feel safe in the environment,” Gloria continues.
Connecting with children and creating a safe space is how after-school programs can assist schools, even if they are also operating remotely. Gloria notes that, “Adults should make online communication interactive, break it up into smaller chunks, incorporate physical movement and find out what topics interest and engage kids.”