Is my now socially awkward kid ever going to start behaving normally again?

By Rachel Buchholz for National Geographic

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of horror stories about adults behaving very badly, everything from diners dumping out to-go boxes at the front door of a restaurant because they were irritated with their wait time, to fliers punching out flight attendants who were just trying to do their jobs. Some will blame this on divisive politics or social media vitriol. Others will point to a cave-person mentality as we re-emerge from pandemic isolation.

Or have we just forgotten how to be nice? And if we’ve forgotten, does that mean kids have, too?

Parents are definitely worried about it. According to a recent survey of 2,000 parents from ed-tech company Osmo, seven in 10 believe that the pandemic will have an impact on their kids’ social skills. These include good manners like waiting their turn (31 percent), sharing (35 percent), and saying “please” or “thank you” (37 percent).

And yet, being kind is essential to a child’s physical and mental well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing kindness can decrease the stress hormone cortisol and increase the body’s feel-good endorphins. (Email me the nicest thing your child has done lately.)

So if you’re concerned about Neanderthal-type behavior as your kids head back to school, here are some ideas to bring out the “kind” in “kindergarten” (or, you know, whatever grade your kid is in …):

• Practice social skills. Whether you’re arranging IRL playdates with someone your child hasn’t seen in a year or setting up “pretend school” to normalize hand-raising, practicing good behavior can translate to actual good behavior. This article has other suggestions to get kids over their social awkwardness.

• Be a good friend. This isn’t just about BFFs. It’s also about sitting next to the lonely kid at lunch, reaching out to the child who’s been bullied, or making a friendship bracelet for a new kid. (This article has advice on diversifying your child’s social group.)

• Volunteer. Even if we’re still not quite out-and-about, kids have lots of at-home options to help others, like posting kind signs to uplift a neighbor’s spirits or writing letters to retirement home residents. This article has other ideas as well.

• Practice an attitude of gratitude. Encourage kids to keep a gratitude journal or leave secret thank-you messages on rocksthese other tips can inspire them, too.

• Be kind to the environment. Whether it’s as simple as leaving seashells on the shore so critters don’t lose their homes (here are other do-not-disturb-the-wildlife ideas) or something more complex like organizing a neighborhood cleanup, kids have plenty of ways they can be nice to the Earth—and therefore to other people.

I’m sure like the rest of us, kids are going to have moments of frustration that might come across as mean from time to time. But hopefully as we all continue to get used to the in-person world again, we’ll at least remember to say “thank you” to an overworked employee.

Read more here.

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