Teaching Kids About Sharing During COVID-19

Teaching Kids About Sharing During COVID-19

Over the past few months, we have all been practicing social distancing to keep each other safe. This has meant that playing and interacting with friends may look very different for kids. And we have heard from a lot of parents that they are concerned about how their children will learn social skills like sharing. After all, how can kids share toys or space with each other when we are trying NOT to share germs?!?

These are very valid concerns. The good news is that even during COVID-19, we can still teach kids a lot about sharing. As parents and teachers, we just have to talk about it a little differently than we did before. And emphasize different kinds of sharing.

Sharing space. In the KITS groups for kids, we talk a lot about sharing space because kids can often get in each others’ way. They may both want to be on a swing at the same time, for example. In a world of social distancing, we can talk with kids about how maintaining 6 feet of distance from our friends is sharing because we are giving them enough space so that they can stay safe. We are not crowding others and letting them have the space they need. Younger kids may need visual or physical reminders of how much space they need to share with their friends.

Sharing ideas and stories. Kids might not be able to share the same toys. Or they might be seeing each other only over a video chat, but they can still share ideas about what their friends could do with the toys that they have or tell their friends what their favorite game is right now. Or they can talk about what they are doing at home, school, or what they saw on a walk the other day. This probably already happens naturally a lot of the time, so by just pointing out to your kids that they are sharing when they are talking to their friends, you can teach them about this important social skill!

For kids who might be less verbal, they could share movements or pictures or show each other their toys. Check out this video of Elmo sharing a dance with his friend for some ideas.

Sharing turns. Because kids might be seeing their friends a lot more over video, and because that means that they might be having more conversations, this is a great time to practice taking turns. Learning how to ask questions and wait for the answers, or tell your own story and then listen while your friend talks are super important skills for having smooth social interactions. You could introduce this idea to your child by saying something like “When we take turns, and let our friends talk, we are sharing the time. This means that everyone can be part of the conversation and part of the fun.”

There are also a lot of games that kids can play from a distance or over a Zoom call that require turn taking. Check out our post on games to play at a distance for more ideas!

Sharing compliments. When we talk in the KITS groups about being friendly, we point out that one nice thing to do for our friends is to give them a compliment. This can be as simple as saying “I like that shirt”. When kids may be limited in sharing toys or other materials with their friends, they can share compliments instead. One way to talk to kids about this could be “When we say nice things to our friends, we are sharing a compliment. There is something about them that makes you feel happy, and you share that happy feeling by telling them what you like about them”.

Sharing adults’ time and attention. Many children are doing school through online learning and their parents may be splitting time between helping several siblings with school work and doing their own work. Or if kids are in the classroom, some of their classmates may be online, and their teacher may be splitting attention between the two groups. This is a great time to talk to kids about needing to share the adult attention. You could say something like “I (or your teacher) need to help your sister/brother/other kids sometimes. So you will need to share my attention. Waiting until I am finished helping your sister/brother is a nice way to share.”

When you really think about it, there are a lot of ways that we share with each other every day. Simply by pointing these ways out to your child and labeling the behavior as sharing will teach them about it. And, as always, when you model sharing, you are teaching your kids all about it. So get out there and share!

Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2020

Image: © Volodymyr Tverdokhlib| Dreamstime.com

Katherine Pears
Dr. Katherine Pears is a senior scientist at Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). She earned her Ph.D in clinical psychology and has worked with OSLC since 1998. Katherine is the principal investigator and co-developer of the Kids In Transition to Schools (KITS) program. Currently, she oversees all the clinical and research activities for KITS. When she’s not in her office, you’ll find Katherine in the kitchen whipping up her latest creation or outdoors hiking a scenic trail.

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