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Staying Social During Social Distancing: Challenges and Solutions

Posted by on May 1, 2020 | Comments Off on Staying Social During Social Distancing: Challenges and Solutions

Staying Social During Social Distancing: Challenges and Solutions

It’s called “social distancing,” but it’s more like “physical distancing,” isn’t it? While COVID-19 requires all of us stay 6+ feet apart and at home, staying connected requires just a few swipes and clicks.

Social media and technology allow young people to continue to nurture and invest in the relationships most important to them. While remaining in contact online seems counterintuitive to how we usually encourage young people to create and pursue relationships, it is one of the only ways that they are able to advance their relationships from a distance. They can communicate, continue to see each other, and keep that face-to-face contact. And while social media and technology are wonderful tools for keeping in touch, they pose their own set of challenges.

Challenges of Social Media Relationships

Young people can encounter many obstacles as they pursue their friendships and relationships online and from a distance, including:

  • Miscommunication
  • Conflict or drama
  • Frustration in not being able to resolve conflict as quickly as they would like
  • Being left on “Read” (When the person they’re talking to has their read receipt feature on their phone and they can see when that person has “Read” their text but is not replying.)
  • Feeling neglected by the other person
  • Not being able to accurately communicate and portray their feelings to their friend/partner
  • Saying things that they would not say in person (It may feel easier to say mean or hurtful things to the other person because you don’t have to watch them respond. It’s simply sent behind a screen.)
  • Feeling jealous of how the other person is allotting their time, like with other friends, schoolwork, etc.

Providing Solutions

While we may not understand the level of emotion that young people are investing or expressing over experiences they’re having online, we can use our knowledge to help our young people navigate these challenges. That knowledge will not only help us to strengthen our relationships with them but will also give them skills that they can use once physical distancing ends.

Here are some ways to help:

  • Demonstrate empathy. Set aside your own points of view, give your full attention to your youth, ask questions, and respond with interest, kindness, and sympathy.
  • Encourage taking social media breaks.
  • Suggest video chatting to resolve conflict rather than over texts.
  • Practice assertive communication. While being vulnerable is hard, being explicit in communicating how they’re feeling, what is bothering them, and what they need is going to help them resolve the conflict they’re experiencing in a way that feels good to them. For example:

“When ____ happens, I feel _____. What I need is_____.”

  • Normalize feeling jealous, upset, or angry, and offer positive ways to help them express those feelings. That can be journaling, or preparing a script for what they want to share with the other person. It’s an opportunity to practice positive assertive communication.

Staying connected is as important as ever.  While we follow distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting your youth will help them safely navigate staying social with their peers.

Interested in learning more about how to provide solutions to youth? Contact Ophelia’s Place to schedule an Adult Education session. You and other parents or educators can receive additional tips and ideas to support youth in your community about topics like Creating Healthy Relationships, Media & Body Image, Making Digital Decisions and more. Call (541) 284-4333 or email info@opheliasplace.net.