After several months of coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, kids seem to be adjusting to life without their friends, classes and hobbies. But is there a difference between the way boys and girls are coping with quarantine?

First, one important caveat – when talking about behaviors, especially gender-typical behaviors, we speak about generalities – these characteristics are OFTEN true, but not ALWAYS true.

The short answer is yes, boys and girls are generally coping differently. Many girls are still communicating with their friends by phone, video calls or social media and sharing their feelings and emotions, but many boys are turning to video games. And, while boys talk to friends on video games, the content of WHAT they share is limited, and leaves boys with a hole in their social support.

This difference has a lot to do with the ways boys and girls communicate in general. Girls are more likely to make time for conversations with friends to talk through their problems at length – it’s their way of processing. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to talk while focused on a shared activity or goal, like playing sports or building Legos together.

Unfortunately, during this pandemic, boys don’t have those moments anymore. As a result, many of them are finding social connection primarily through video games, which have more limits and less flexibility than other forms of virtual social connection. While boys can talk to their friends in video games, their communication is focused on a shared goal (winning the game), and is NOT about sharing or processing emotions/stressors.

So while video games do games provide competition, brain-stimulating entertainment and social connection, they do not provide the emotional connection and support boys need.

Helping kids deal with social isolation

Here are some ways to help both boys and girls reach out to friends and family during the pandemic:

  1. Schedule virtual activities with peers. Young kids and even teens who have been home for a long time may find it difficult to just talk and have a conversation via telephone or videoconference. So try scheduling virtual activities for them to do with friends instead!
    • Virtual activities for younger kids:
      • Doing the same art project
      • Reading the same book or having one child reading to the other (the Caribu app allows kids to video chat while reading a book or coloring on the app)
      • Doing a scavenger hunt
      • Hosting a talent show with kids from multiple families
      • Having a dance party – kids can alternate picking songs
      • Playing a game like Bingo, Scattergories, Pictionary, Hangman, or Gestures
    • Virtual activities for older kids:
      • Virtual Book Club or Movie Critic Club
      • Netflix Party – watch the same movie
      • Scavenger hunt
      • Hosting a talent show with teens from multiple families
      • Game night: Playing a game like Bingo, Scattergories, Pictionary, Hangman, or Gestures (the Houseparty app allows video chat while playing games like Pictionary, trivia, and a game similar to Apples to Apples; there are also multiple apps for playing card games online)
      • Virtual graduation parties or birthday parties
  1. Depending on the rules and recommendations in your area, consider socially distanced live social events. Some ideas include:
    • Car picnic in a parking lot (each family stays in/next to their own car at least 6 feet away)
    • Socially distanced picnic or bonfire (set out chairs or blankets in advance, spread 6-feet apart)
    • Drive-way greetings – make signs, or sing a song from the bottom of a friend’s driveway or from the sidewalk
    • Porch party – one family stays on the porch and another family plays in the yard 10 feet away.

**Remember, both sets of families should wear masks and encourage kids to stay 6 feet away.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura GrayLaura Gray, PhD, is a clinical psychologist at Children's National Hospital.

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