As we shelter in place in our respective homes, doing our part to slow the spread of Coronavirus, it can be difficult for children to understand and cope with this dramatic change to their daily life. At school, children naturally interact shoulder to shoulder, collaborating, sharing, talking, playing and connecting with their friends, classmates, teachers and administrators. Suddenly, they're each in their own home and their daily level of communication and social enrichment is greatly diminished.

A young girl holds a letter up to the screen to let her teacher know she misses school.
The transition to distance learning can be especially hard for younger children.

Ms. Victoria, Lower School Head, noticed a feeling of loss and bewilderment in some students. Younger children, particularly, are not yet adept at connecting through video chats, cannot easily send emails or texts, and are vulnerable to loneliness as a result.

The term "social distancing" is heard on repeat these days, but perhaps it is time to change it to express something closer to what we really mean. Ms. Victoria suggests:

"We keep using the term 'social distancing' when we really mean 'physical distancing'. Actually, we are trying to stay socially connected -- more so now than before.

"For me, 'social distancing' means a certain amount of loneliness. I am going to start using the term 'physical distancing' with my students, so they understand that we are only keeping our bodies apart -- not our relationship, our communication or our friendship.

"The kids are having a hard time with this. I am hoping that a simple turn of phrase can help them."

As a school, Delphi is also responding to the students' needs for more connection. Our first two weeks of distance learning were focused on getting all families online, connected through Google Classroom, oriented to the new program and successfully continuing learning from afar. Now, with these points coming into place, we are turning our attention to further addressing the social-emotional needs of our student body.

Implemented at school are:

- More live classes such as P.E., dance workouts, choir and Spanish.

- Live "get together" sessions for younger students where children can hang out through Google Meet and join in on a theme together, such as everyone building something at home, drawing together, or hearing a story.

- All-school games such as Dragon Spirit Week, art shows and dance contests that encourage everyone to participate and send in their images showing that day's school spirit theme or activity.

- Collaboration opportunities with other schools in the Delphi network such as joint Zoom classes and the chance to learn from other teachers or talk to other students around the U.S.

- Google Hangouts for older students before school where students play a game together that can work over a Google Hangout such as Pictionary, Taboo, Scattegories, trivia, word search, word unscramblers, charades, online escape room puzzles, etc.

- Scheduled group video meetings for Kindergarten parents with the teachers for orientation, updates, to share what's working and ask questions.

At home, parents can also:

- Help their children connect to and participate in these online opportunities

- Use lunch breaks or work breaks to hug, talk and connect meaningfully, at the child's level.

- Share the student accomplishments section of the Delphi weekly newsletter with your child so they can see photos of other children they know and be inspired to contribute their own accomplishments.

- Send in photos or quotes from your child to the teacher when they complete schoolwork or do a great job so we can include them in the next newsletter.

- Participate with your child in some of the online videos and workouts.

- Talk to your child about physical distancing versus "social distancing" and let them come up with ways that they could communicate with friends and teachers that is comfortable for them.

- Reach out to family members or friends you haven't seen in awhile and reconnect through video chat and help your child to join in.

- Model positive ways to connect with people that you miss.

- Help your child create connections with their friends. For example, two friends can buy the same craft kit and keep an open video chat while they work on it.

- Write letters and make drawings or crafts to send to teachers and friends in the mail.

- Share your ideas for improving social interaction with your child's teacher so we can implement them and share with the school!