The pandemic changed the way we communicate. In-person communication changed to largely virtual, as did school. Scheduling play dates for kids completely ended, and while these adaptations were necessary for safety, they had an impact on us, and are still affecting the way we work, play and live. One of the biggest ways this impact has been felt is in the development of children’s communication skills.
When the world went virtual, the way we communicated changed. While we all got creative on how to continue with work, school and life, there is no doubt that it was vastly different. As adults, adapting to virtual communication was difficult, but it was just as difficult for our kids, if not more so.
Students once amongst their peers and able to practice communication skills in the classroom, during play time and at lunch, were forced to replicate these experiences from a distance. While we all did the best we could to give children as many normal virtual experiences as possible to communicate and learn, the impact was still great.
In a journal article by Charney, Camarata, and Chern (2021), the impacts on communication were greatest among the pediatric population as they are in their prime years for language development. Mask wearing, social distancing and virtual school, while needed for safety, had an impact on school aged children in their language development. It was found, young children faced a loss of learning visual cues in communication, faced “Zoom Fatigue” making listening and attention difficult, lost important “peer talk” opportunities during play and socialization diminished.
It is now more important than ever to help foster healthy communication skills in our children. Not sure where to start? We have you covered!
Talk! Yes, this may seem like common sense, but really talk with your kids or students. Give them opportunities to tell you about their day and really listen. With younger kids, take any opportunity to have a conversation. At the grocery store, talk with them about what you need to buy, on a car ride talk about where you are going, demonstrate effective communication skills at any opportunity.
Listen! Truly listen and reflect. We all get busy and have a lot on our plate, but it is important to listen to what your kids or students have to say and reflect on what they are saying. This is also an opportunity to teach kids appropriate times to have a conversation. If they want to tell you a story when you need to hop on a Zoom meeting or right when class is starting, explain to them you would love to have this conversation when there is more time.
Body Language. Point out body language and facial expressions, especially to younger kids. This is helpful in their adaptation of good social cues. As masks start to come off, it is important to teach kids appropriate facial expressions. We may be saying one thing, but our face may be saying another.
Peer Communication. Give children safe opportunities to practice their communication skills with their peers through play. Play and socialization with other children provides an opportunity to develop conversational skills as well as develop rules, problem solving and teamwork skills amongst peers. This is crucial in communication development. Encourage children to take a break, play and be with their friends.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has affected us all. While we have done our best to adapt and keep moving forward, there have been major impacts on our lives, including the impact on our children’s communication skills. Now more than ever it is important to help our kids develop healthy communication skills. It can be as simple as carrying on a conversation each day.