How students can maintain social skills in school year full of changes

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Updated: Aug. 13, 2020 at 6:30 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - From social distancing to mask wearing, this school year will be like no other for students across East Texas.

“It is going to be different, but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be bad,” Smith County Champions for Children counselor Melanie Thomas said.

Thomas says many students are feeling anxious about this school year and the uncertainties that come with it.

“I think that’s one reason why kids are struggling with anxiety is because everything is so unknown. There’s too many unanswered questions. They ended the school year in such an odd way that some of them didn’t even get the closure that they needed and now we’re coming back,” Thomas said.

Coming back to a school environment where the way they socialize with others has changed. Group work is swapped out for individual work, and some kids won’t come to class at all. They’ll be learning virtually from home. Thomas says there are still ways to develop valuable social skills and interactions ─ even with a mask on and six feet apart.

“Encouraging kids to do an air high five, silent hugs, making eye contact and practicing that at home you know with role play, conversations over dinner time, making eye contact, speaking clearly, staying on topic,” Thomas said.

Thomas says for younger kids, there will be a desire to touch and play with their classmates, but parents need to explain to them why they can’t do that right now.

“As humans, we love physical touch, we love personal interaction. I think for teachers especially it’s going to be very, very hard not to just want to hug, hug, hug, and it’s going to be hard for the kids too,” Thomas said.

The anxieties and uncertainties remain for many students and parents, but Thomas says the way to make the most of the year is by being optimistic.

“I think that we just have to go in with an open mindset that the one reason school even exists is to provide children with a better life,” Thomas said.

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