Typically, children’s social and emotional learning (SEL) occurs during adolescence. It’s during that time that they start interacting with their friends more than with you, as a parent, and as a family at large. However, with COVID-19 interrupting our norms, children are missing out on the opportunity to apply their social skills.
While this disruption applies to almost every child, children with ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) are struggling the most – not only to stay up to date with lessons, assignments, and classes but also to engage in conversations and maintain friendships.
Since the pandemic doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, here are 7 SEL activities for ADHD students when staying at home to make sure your child’s social-emotional learning doesn’t fall through the cracks during remote learning.
1. Virtual Outings and Sleepovers
Social distancing doesn’t mean children can’t still interact with each other – that’s why virtual tools are here! To encourage socializing, you could organize an outing or sleepover online with your child’s favorite friends.
During the outing or sleepover, prepare some food, like popcorn, candy, and snacks, along with some games that would be easy for them to play together virtually, like Bingo, XO, or Trivia cards. You could even go the extra mile of sending these over to your child’s friends as well.
Not only will the kids have fun playing and chit-chatting, but they’ll also practice their social skills from the safety of their homes. They could even watch Netflix movies together!
2. Family Dialogs
Since children with ADHD don’t talk that much, and when they do, it isn’t for extended periods, you could organize dialogs two times a week, for example, where you would engage in a discussion as a family on a given topic. That topic could be something that your kid is interested in – the idea is just to keep them talking.
Maybe let them choose and prepare the topic in advance so that they’re enthusiastic about these conversations and get pushed out of their comfort zones. In addition to practicing their social skills, they’ll also be practicing social listening, sensitivity, and empathy.
Yes, social distancing is still a thing, but not all sports require close contact with other teammates or require a large group of people to be feasible. Some sports are individual ones or require two people at most, like track and field, tennis singles, squash, or even swimming.
By engaging in sports, children will let some of their trapped energy out and simultaneously cooperate with other children far away from the digital scenery.
4. Do Positive Actions
When children feel like they’re doing good things and taking positive actions in any situation, they gradually start to feel good about themselves, become calmer, and manage their emotions better.
As a parent, you could encourage your special ed child to develop self-management skills and responsible decision-making through various activities, like helping an elderly neighbor with chores, volunteering with a charitable organization, cooking a meal together, engaging in meditation, and more.
If personally arranging such activities seems daunting, special education programs can be a good alternative. That’s because they often encourage students to partake in social activities, in addition to building their academic knowledge.
That way, they acquire skills that even extend beyond the digital classroom. They’ll feel that they have a role in the larger community and will be keener on engaging in conversations, discussions, activities, and any day-to-day tasks that require interaction.
5. Writing Letters
Similar to the idea of pen pals, you can have your child engage in letter writing to their friends, relatives, or even siblings if they’re not living around or they’re unable to physically meet due to social distancing rules.
When writing, children are able to express themselves without boundaries and transform their thoughts into written words, which comes in very handy in social cognitive development.
6. Basic Outdoor Activities
A lot of countries are gradually starting to open up, which means more and more time will be available to spend outdoors. While you don’t necessarily have to take your child to the mall, restaurants, or even parks, you could still enjoy the little things together.
For instance, you could take your kid bike riding, jogging, sidewalk chalking, or camping in a garden to enjoy some quality time outside of the house where you could chit-chat and share a laugh. If possible, you could also invite some friends if you know they’ve been quarantining and are safe to meet.
Just don’t invite many people over since children with ADHD are likely to prefer a few people at a time. Also, since they haven’t been talking as much since COVID-19, getting reconnected with their brains’ social functioning aspect may need some patience.
7. Family Gatherings
Family is the comfort zone of children with ADHD, which is why relatives, too, can be the most significant reinforcement for them. They won’t have to exert as much effort to engage in conversations with them as they would with their peers – it all comes so naturally.
Therefore, whenever you have a chance, either meet up with your relatives, the child’s grandparents, or other people you consider family and share a meal together. If meeting in-person isn’t an option at the moment, you could always do it virtually, like the concept of virtual sleepovers and outings.
The most crucial element is just to make your child feel safe and within their comfort zone, and at the same time, you’ll be promoting safe social interactions that go a long way in your child’s character formation.
At the end of the day, there’s no denying that dealing with ADHD in quarantine is quite a challenge, especially with how it’s forcing children to isolate and not practice their social skills as much as they should be.
Despite that, the 7 SEL activities for ADHD students when staying at home that we’ve discussed in this article should help address the issue, salvage it, and even strengthen your child’s social skills.