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How COVID-19 could affect your children’s social, emotional skills

DETROIT – The closing of schools and daycares has had a dramatic effect on our children’s every day lives.

UPDATE -- May 28, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 56,014; Death toll now at 5,372

Many parents of school age kids are understandably concerned about academics, some with younger children fear their kids are missing out on something even more basic.

While older kids may still be interacting with friends on social media, most preschoolers are limited to the playmates in their own home.

With a return to school uncertain, some parents wonder what impact that's having on their child's development.

After weeks away from preschool, Chrysta Justiss doesn’t worry 4-year-old Riley is falling behind in school -- she fears Riley is missing out on life lessons.

“She’s really smart. My biggest concern is her,” Justiss said. “Mainly, her social awkwardness. She doesn’t know how to react with other children.”

While parents can teach colors and numbers at home, there are some lessons that are much harder to teach -- social and emotional skills.

Dr. Neal Horen, Ph.D. said early childhood is a critical time for building social and emotional skills and that’s harder to do when the children are alone.

He said it’s important that parents find time to play with their children, even for just a few minutes every hour.

It’s also important to manage your own stress levels so your children don’t take in your anxieties.

“Right now, the most important thing you can do is support your child in terms of their emotions,” Horen said.

RELATED: How to prevent burnout for you and your children

Fortunately, Justiss said Riley to be able to play with her younger sister too.

“We try to make life as fun as possible,” Justiss said.

When you’re playing with your preschooler, use that time to also practice skills like sharing and taking turns. You can also look for ways to involve them in daily chores like cooking and cleaning whenever possible.

RELATED: Getting children involved in household chores teaches valuable lessons, improves mental health

How impactful the stay-at-home order will be depends on how long it goes for. Experts say friendships tend to play a bigger role in the lives of older children, so they might be missing that more than preschoolers. But with many parents trying to juggle working at home and childcare, some may be struggling to meet the needs of younger children without the support of preschool.


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