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Socializing in the new world

A few weeks or months ago, since I no longer can keep track of time, I had connected briefly with the parent of one of my children’s friends. It was brief and conversational, a reconnecting of acquaintances. As parents, we had never socialized, but our children had been friendly. We hadn’t met at games or other activities. We hadn’t done some crazy amount of fundraising or met each other at a non-child-related event. We traveled in separate circles and just really knew each other in passing. 

The reason I’m bringing this up is that this child always made an effort to be friendly to me. I should also admit that I’m not the type of person who is “friends” with my children’s peers. I enjoy their friends because they are smart, kind and witty, but I don’t want to hang out with them all the time. The feeling is mutual. 

I first met this particular young person at a school activity where they simply directed me to the correct location. It was a simple act. From that moment on and throughout the years, our conversations have ranged from a quick hello to a quick event summary. This person always acknowledged me when the circumstances warranted it. As this person grew from student to adult, the brief meetings have evolved from health inquires to family life. It may sound trivial, but being able to acknowledge adults is a necessary skill.

This person is certainly not the only mindful child I’ve encountered. (If this sounds like your son or daughter, I congratulate you. You made a difference.) It is easy to let our children shy away from uncomfortable social situations, but it doesn’t help them learn. I’m not suggesting that you force your child to hug a stranger or be in a dangerous situation. I’m just notifying you that those simple acts of kindness made a difference over the years. It showed me how I wanted my own children to act. 

Now with children/students wearing masks, there will most likely be a huge learning curve for those simple acts of socialization we took for granted. Children are having to distance themselves from strangers, acquaintances, and even family and friends. It will take creative thinking when we bring children out in public places to make sure that they learn to engage with a range of ages in the safest way possible. We need to be patient with children/students and parents as everyone negotiates between public expectations and individual parenting styles.

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