Eleven-year-old Aislinn usually dances for four hours a day between hanging out with her friends and going to school.
Now, as an only child, she’s isolating at home with her parents in their home on central Vancouver Island. Her mom, AJ Welburn, said she’s managing to take it in stride.
“It’s tough to be away from friends, but [she’s] utilizing social media and video chat to speak with them. However, she has been very understanding as to the situation that we are all in and doesn’t complain about being home,” said Welburn. “Her days right now include live video dance classes/lessons, reading, movies, playing in the yard, some school work, iPad time, walks — anything to keep busy.”
Only children are in a unique situation during COVID-19 and the social isolation that comes along with it — parents can’t plop them down with a sibling to keep them occupied.
And, of course, all kids are different in their needs and how they approach spending an increased amount of time at home. And not all children, especially extroverted ones, are able to easily adapt, said Dr. Jillian Roberts.
Roberts is a clinical child psychologist, who has been dealing with the same questions while parenting her 7-year-old. They’ve enrolled in an online Harry Potter course to stay busy and get outside every day to let off some steam.
Roberts said it’s not black and white in terms of what introverted and extroverted children need, and how they will approach social isolation with their guardian(s).
“For introverts, who kind of liked being home on a Friday night with the fire, this isn’t that different for them,” she said.
Misty Waters’ daughter fits into that category. Eight-year-old Nyah’s favorite place was already their B.C. home.
“Our days are only slightly different from before. Aside from no school during the day, no gymnastics or play dates and no meals out,” said Waters.
Waters’ describes Nyah as “kind and quiet, yet self-assured.”
Roberts said children like Nyah might not have to adjust as much to social isolation.
“They’re not having to adapt to something that different, but for extroverts and extroverted children, this is a huge adaptation,” she said.
Roberts said some extroverted children might need more playtime with parent(s), but all kids are going to miss interacting with children closer to their age — parents can just do their best right now.
“Get your child to participate in making dinner and chatting, put music on and dance around the kitchen,” she said. “Just try to be in the moment, be day-to-day and try and make it as fun as you can for your child.”
Roberts also stressed that getting outside with your introverted or extroverted child will make a big difference.
However, she reminds parents that all members of a family are going to feel the weight of a global pandemic and the grief and stress that comes with it.
“One of the things I’m hearing from families I’m working with is that it feels very unnatural in a time of crisis to have to be alone,” she said. “During times of crisis we often just want to be with our families, but we’re not able to do that right now.”