Teaching Tips, Home Connection

The Social-Emotional Impact of Distance Learning

The social-emotional impact of distance learning

“Why can’t I play with my friends?”

“What happens if everyone gets the virus?”

“When is the next time we can do something fun?”

“It feels like I’m grounded.”

“I hate the Coronavirus!”


Maybe you’ve heard similar comments from your kids in the past few weeks. 


Just how much are school closures and social distancing efforts affecting our children’s social-emotional well-being?

  • Their daily routines are disrupted. 
  • Sports and other extracurricular activities are cancelled. 
  • Social interactions are now limited to immediate family members and, if they are lucky, occasional video meetings with classmates and friends.

Yes, adults are experiencing these disruptions too, but we have perspective and emotional maturity on our side. 


As parents, we're spending time and energy to ensure that children are on track with their distance learning activities. We’ve stockpiled food and supplies to take care of their physical needs. We also need to be assessing the state of our children’s social-emotional health and providing opportunities for social-emotional learning and growth through this difficult season.


The best way to get insight into children’s emotional state is to ask them!  

Invite them to talk about their feelings and fears. Emotional understanding is an important aspect of emotional development, and we can encourage its development by helping children name their own feelings. Resist the urge to suggest how they should feel. Listen and accept their emotions without invalidating or criticizing them. 


Some children may not be able or willing to verbalize their feelings to you, but there is another way to gain insight into their emotional health. 

How many of you have noticed changes in your child’s behavior or mood in the past few weeks? Self-regulation is another important element of social-emotional development that includes managing emotions and behavior when faced with difficult situations and transitions.  Increased anger, irritability, withdrawal, clinginess, or even sleep and appetite changes may indicate that a child has strong underlying emotions they don’t know how to appropriately express.


So, what are some practical steps we can take to support our children’s social-emotional health through this time? 

  • As much as possible, establish a predictable routine and rhythm for your days.
  • Prioritize spending quality time each day with your children to increase their sense of security.
  • Provide regular opportunity for your children to connect with family members and friends by video, phone, or handwritten letters. 
  • Spend time outside, and get regular exercise.
  • Encourage children to develop goals to work towards during their time at home. Maybe they want to learn a new skill like making friendship bracelets, or set a goal to support a family member by writing them a letter once per week. 
  • Give your child something fun to look forward to. Schedule a game night, develop a menu for a special meal to cook together, or plan a pretend trip to an exotic location!
  • Encourage children to keep a journal or blog to record their thoughts and feelings.


Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s physician for recommendations and support when needed.


Check out these resources for more information and tips:


Supporting Schools and Families Affected by COVID-19

We’re here to help you navigate these unprecedent times. Click here for even more resources that can help you continue children’s handwriting, keyboarding, and pre-kindergarten development from a distance.





Valerie Zaryczny's picture
By Valerie Zaryczny Valerie Zaryczny, MS, OTR/L, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wake Forest University and a Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked as a pediatric occupational therapist since 2004 with children of all ages in multiple settings including schools, clinics, daycares, and homes. Valerie is passionate about helping children of all abilities develop the skills necessary to be successful at school and in daily life. She especially enjoys motivating and empowering teachers and parents to help their students become successful with handwriting and keyboarding skills, which she has done as a National Workshop Presenter for Learning Without Tears since 2011. She also works as a lead occupational therapist for a regional therapy company in South Carolina. Valerie lives in the Greenville, SC area with her husband and 2 children where they enjoy hiking, traveling, and church activities.