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Physical distancing has made social distancing the norm

To society, social distancing presents the dangers of increasing social rejection, growing impersonality and individualism, and the loss of a sense of community. It negatively affects learning and growth, and it prevents people from effectively socializing, which is a fundamental human need. (Kevin Sikali) 2020

As Covid started to decline in severity, and the hygiene practice of physical distancing became less important, the after effect was, people still socially distanced, avoided crowded places and ordered food in, rather than go out to a restaurant.

What does that mean for children? Children spent months learning from home, they could not join a sporting team and spent more time online than ever before. Very young children missed out on preschool and the start to school for first timers, was erratic and confusing. Many children missed those early opportunities to learn how to socialise by being in a class, playing in the playground and attending after school activities.  Now that they are back at school, educational experts are heartbroken that children have not learnt how to socially interact, instead they have become adept at socially distancing. From this practice of social-distancing, anti-social behaviours have emerged as the norm.

A friend was describing to me a situation that made her stomach churn. Her 1-year-old daughter had been attending pre-school for about 6 months, they were teaching physical distancing to these toddlers to prevent outbreaks within her childcare center. This mum described a situation to me where her daughter and another child were sitting on a picnic blanket, when the other child reached out to touch her daughter’s foot she immediately pulled away and shuffled backward to avoid a repeat touch. Her mum said to me “she is 1, this is how she is experiencing social life, where will she be in 4 years’ time?”

I would confidently say that our children have been habitualised into social distancing which in turn has obstructed their ability to learn how to be social, and how to interact positively with others. Let’s have a look at how that happened? There were constant and consistent reminders to socially distance, it was on every media type available, it was expected in every indoor space, with stickers and crosses. Children have learnt not to be social and were rewarded for doing so. “Thank you for keeping 1.5m apart.”

As educators we have a responsibility to reverse this habit immediately! There is a 21/90 rule. The rule works this way, if you commit to a personal rule for 21 days it will continue for another 90 days. At Real Schools we support whole school communities over 1000 days, to immerse students in a positive relational culture. Students will develop their empathy, conflict resolution skills and the ability to repair relationships when harm has been done.

Does your school need help in reversing the effect of social distancing?

Sikali, K., 2020. The dangers of social distancing: How COVID‐19 can reshape our social experience. Journal of community psychology.

Check out other articles Sheila has written here.