Our kids have been away from their classrooms for months that sometimes feel like years. We worry about the lessons they might be missing, the academic ground they might have lost. Meanwhile, many kids worry about whether they’ll ever be able to hang out with their friends again. When we can’t be social, how do we practice social skills? And what can we do for children who, because of developmental differences, were already struggling socially?

Child psychologist Stephanie Mihalas, who directs The Center for Well Being in West L.A., says that being away from school can impact social skills for children across the age spectrum. Younger children miss the opportunity to practice taking turns, sharing and standing in line. Older kids and teens miss out on skill builders such as how to work on collaborative group projects. True, there is sometimes interaction on Zoom, but it isn’t quite the same. “There’s a different kind of energy and vibe when you’re in the classroom, but when you’re over Zoom, even if they put people into different Zoom rooms, that kind of collective cooperation changes,” Mihalas says.

You might not be able to change your child’s virtual learning experience, but there are things that you can do at home to help maintain – and even build – important social skills.