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Encouraging your child to spend time with others

We all know how strange the last few months have been. And the hardest thing for many of us has been the lack of contact with our friends and family. Many of us will have been grateful for phone calls and video chats, but it isn’t the same as seeing them in person.

This will have been especially tough for children and young people. They are still learning about and establishing friendships, and may have been quite lonely being separated from their friends.

As restrictions ease, it’s important that children start spending time with others again. Playing and spending time with their friends is a crucial part of all children’s development, no matter how old they are. However, some children may be feeling nervous about being with others after all this time. We have some advice if you are worried that your child is anxious about seeing people again.

What do I do if my child doesn’t want to spend time with others?

Children will have spent a lot less time around others these last few months. They’ll have had to entertain themselves and get used to playing on their own. It’s understandable that some might need a little help. Lots of children will be feeling the same, and the changes over the last few months will be hard for them to process. But there are things you can do to help make it easier for your child to start seeing people again.

In this short film, Cherie Morgan from Play Scotland explains how you can help reassure your child if they're anxious.

Tips to encourage them to meet others

Tip #1: Have a chat

Speak to your child about what is going on. Be positive about the changes that are happening and ask them what fun things they’re looking forward to. Ask them if they’ve any worries about seeing people again.

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Tip #2: Don’t dismiss their worries

Their concerns are valid. This is a strange and uneasy time. It’s okay for them to be unsure about seeing people after being told they couldn’t for months. Try to reassure them that others will be feeling the same as them and that it’s okay for them to be worried but that seeing people is important.

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Tip #3: Plan a playdate

Invite one of their friends over for a short period of time. If they’re nervous about seeing other people, making it a short play will be easier. Perhaps meet them outside somewhere first. The next time you could increase how long the visit is. Or even invite their friend to your house. Just make sure you are following physical distancing guidance.

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Tip #4: Take them to a friend’s house

Once they’re comfortable having a friend round you could take them to their friend’s house instead. You could then slowly increase the number of children they see at once. You might find they get back into the swing of things quickly.

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Tip #5: Be positive

Your child’s main role model is you. If they see you being overly worried about being around others they may pick up on that. Try to be positive and as calm as you can when you’re seeing people, or are out and about in places like the park.

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What do I do if another parent is not following the rules?

Now that lockdown restrictions are starting to ease, children have much more freedom to play together, at home and in the park or other public places. However, while some parents are very cautious about what they let their children do, others are more relaxed. You may find yourself at odds with other parents who have a different attitude to you. You know what’s best for your child. Just do what you’re comfortable with, and don’t feel pressured into doing things against current guidelines.

Going back to school

A lot of your child’s worries will be around going back to school. You’ll probably have your own worries too. We have some advice to help you deal with any worries they have and some guidance if they are moving up to primary or secondary school after the summer.