With August now upon us (it is August, right?) many parents and kids around the country are preparing to head back to school, a reality that will look much different this year as schools and families adjust to changes mandated by social distancing rules. And this shift to educating children in a virtual classroom isn’t the only change we will see as kids return to school. The very nature of “going to school” will change as social connections and activity outside the classroom also shifts to a new normal. As a family and parenting expert and mom of two, I know that important experiences and friendships made outside the classroom play an important role in a child’s development and overall well-being.This year, parents will need to find new solutions to make sure their children are still making and fostering these important social connections and experiences.
This is obviously causing a lot of stress and concern for parents everywhere as they try to create the best environment to ensure their children continue to grow and thrive, while also juggling their own work and life responsibilities. As a parent myself, I’m concerned with how to balance my career, be a full-time Mom, and simultaneously make sure my son Lex remains engaged and active throughout his remote schedule. Luckily, we’re not alone. This school year parents and kids will be able to access many online resources and virtual tools to stay socially connected with one another in their school communities, in spite of the physical distance.
I’m proud to have partnered with Messenger and Messenger Kids to offer parents and their kids a series of digital guides and activities to help stay connected and engaged while at home. The guides also contain safety tips that were developed in collaboration with a member of Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board. My hope is that these guides will serve as an easy-to-use, free, and accessible resource to help ease the transition into a remote school day. A few of my favorite topics from the digital guides include ‘Helping Your Child Connect with New Classmates’ which gives parents and kids tips like how to start conversations and make new friends. There’s also ‘Building Virtual Clubs and Study Breaks’, which helps kids find new ideas for clubs and gives advice on organizing study breaks. There’s even advice for organizing ‘Virtual Lunchtime, Recess and Playdates’ which includes things like interactive activities and fun camera filters that kids can explore together on a video call. You can find more information about these guides and other online educational resources by visiting Facebook’s Educator Resource Hub.
Messenger Kids is an easy to use tool to help parents and their kids stay connected with each other during this back to school season that my family and I use regularly. My own son Lex uses Messenger Kids to connect with his friends and his grandparents. He and his pals connect every day, even while playing video games so they can strategize in real time. Most importantly, parents can have peace of mind when their children are using Messenger Kids because parents control the app experience and manage their child’s contact list. Some great ways parents can utilize Messenger Kids this fall include organizing supervised playdates or homework sessions, setting up a weekly book club and using control and visibility features in the Parent Dashboard to help their child navigate new social connections and practice digital etiquette.
Messenger Rooms is also a great resource for virtually connecting through easy-to-use shareable links. Messenger Rooms lets people create a room to host video calls with up to 50 people with no time limits. This makes it easy for teachers, parents, and teens to organize everything from virtual “Back to School Nights,” PTO meetings, and even virtual study breaks. Participants just need a link to join the call; no codes or passwords necessary. Messenger Rooms also has a great screen share feature so you can share a presentation, class photos, or even showcase a completed art project. It’s actually how we plan to host Lex’s virtual birthday party this year. Messenger Rooms has made it so easy and stress-free. Check out Staying Connected for Back to School Season on Messenger Rooms for more tips on how to use rooms to stay socially connected to your school community this year.
I know personally that I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety about this new school year. Every parent wants the best for their children and certainly to make sure they are continuing to get the most out of their school experience, regardless of the current situation. Thankfully we live in a time where technology enables us to maintain our close social connections and continue on with life in the face of our new reality. My hope is that the resources and tools I’ve shared here will help parents and kids stay closely connected with their school communities, and with each other.
To ask me any questions or for more tips, contact me at erickasouter.com
Helping Your Child Connect with New Classmates
Building Virtual Clubs and Study Breaks
Virtual Lunchtime, Recess and Playdates
Staying Connected for Back to School Season on Messenger Rooms