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National Geographic: Your Kids Might Now Be Socially Awkward—and They’re Not Alone

National Geographic recently published an article featuring Jane Tavyev Asher, MD, director of the Division of Child Neurology and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at Cedars-Sinai, and Pamela Phillips, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Group, discussing the impact of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s social skills.

Socialization is central to how children develop cognitive skills. Interacting with their peers helps kids learn patience, how to communicate, how to share and other social skills they'll need as adults.

"Anything that a child learns, or experiences builds neural pathways," Asher told National Geographic. Once those pathways are established, a child can more easily repeat what they've learned.

But the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reduced opportunities for children to interact with each other. So how has that lack of socialization affected the development of cognitive and social skills for kids?

Some children "may have more difficulty following instructions and sharing," Philips told National Geographic. "Others may feel more hesitant about participating in the classroom and may initially seem withdrawn."

Children might have missed out on experiences that could've helped them develop socially, but spending more than a year in isolation won't necessarily lead to lasting harm. A child's brain can still develop with repetition and practice, especially in early development.

"Their brains still demonstrate remarkable ability for recovery and growth known as neuroplasticity," Asher told National Geographic. "If we can push to make up for lost time, they can certainly still gain those skills."

Because kids can gain back social skills with repetition, it's important for parents to help them practice. "Outdoor play is relatively safe, so plan a trip or two to a local playground so your child can practice interacting with other kids," Philips told National Geographic.

But she added that the most important role a parent can play is modeling a positive attitude. "Children look to the adults in their lives to decide how to react to situations, and we need to set the right tone," Phillips said.

Click here to read the complete article from National Geographic.