Childhood friendships are key for mental and physical health. Preschool friendships help children develop social and emotional skills, feel a sense of belonging and decrease stress. 

Now we’ve emerged from the height of the pandemic and lockdowns, there is plenty we can do to assist our children reconnect safely. From organising outside activities to spending more quality time together, we can help recharge their friendships 

Start slow 
Children may be eager to socialise after lockdown but may also feel uneasy, awkward, or overwhelmed. They may need time and practice to get the hang of interacting with friends again. We can rebuild these skills by role-playing and using reminders around sharing, taking turns, patience, gentle hands, flexibility and empathy. 

Continue to use virtual connections 
Younger children might still enjoy regular story time with a grandparent online. Preschoolers might enjoy engaging in parallel play with their cousins, getting out their toys, making or baking, playing and talking to one another. 

Go ‘old school’ 
Writing letters or putting together care packages is a fun way for children to keep in touch with friends or family. Have you seen a re-emergence of neighbourhood friendships? Playing outside becomes even more convenient with children from around the block. 

Focus on empathy and gratitude 
Encourage children to find things every day to be thankful for. If they lost touch with some friends during the pandemic, they can think about ways to reconnect now or try new activities where they may meet new friends. 

Look for socially distanced opportunities 
For families choosing to continue social distancing practices for unvaccinated children, aim to get children together outside. There are many ways for children to safely connect in person; riding bikes, walking pets, meeting for a picnic or ice cream! 

Stay engaged 
Although many of us are understandably exhausted, it’s just as important now to be regularly interacting with our children. Instead of binging on Netflix in the evening, play a board game or do a puzzle as a family. This is good for developing brains, and time together as a family helps them work on social skills and cope with loneliness as they rebuild friendships. 

In this video, early childhood expert Anthony Semann offers practical tips on helping children manage anxiety, particularly if they are having difficulty with friendships.