Fox 4 knows parents and caregivers have a lot to think about when it comes to choosing the right school option for their kids. Many parents have expressed concerns about the social or emotional impacts of missing out on in-person learning. A child therapist said there are social benefits and downsides to learning at home and in the classroom.
Teressa Klein is a child and family therapist at Camel City Counseling. She works with clients in multiple states, including in Florida.
She said if you decide to go with at-home learning, either virtually or through home schooling, kids might miss out on learning social cues from their peers around them.
"How they learn how to play cooperatively, how they learn how to negotiate solutions to conflicts, and how they start to test out their growing independence. They won't have that direct type of learning going on in a classroom setting," Klein said.
She also said Pre-K through Elementary School kids are at an age when they start to challenge boundaries, so parents and caregivers may have to outline those boundaries more clearly, and more often.
For students in Middle School, she said at-home learning means there might be fewer opportunities for friendships.
"Fewer opportunities for friendships to deepen, for them to bloom. There's the possibility for an increase in disagreements in the home, just because kids are going to be figuring out who they are," she said.
She also said parents or caregivers might start to see more withdrawn behavior, because this age group, along with high schoolers, really value peer-to-peer relationships -- sometimes more than family relationships.
For High Schoolers, Klein said it's about losing out on their independence.
"With learning how to drive, relying more on friendships, having those extracurricular activities, sports, clubs. So taking some of those things out of the equation will definitely have an impact on kids socially," she said.
No matter the age of your child, Klein said there are some great social and emotional benefits to at-home learning. For the littler kids, she said it starts with having more family time.
"Those caregivers will be able to have a greater influence on their kids' social and emotional development. So things like emotional regulation, learning coping skills, and more opportunity to give the child more autonomy, more independence," Klein told Fox 4.
With older kids, she said parents and caregivers will have more time to engage with their kids on a deeper level. Klein also said it protects vulnerable kids from social stressors in the classroom, like bullying, peer pressure, social anxiety, or difficulty with peer-to-peer interactions.
"One of my kids kids has more of a generalized anxiety, plus perfectionist tendencies. So peer-to-peer interactions aren't just 'Hey, you're my friend. That's great.' It's this added stress of 'I'm competing against you because I want to be the best in this class,'" she explained.
If you do decide to send your kids back to the classroom, Klein recommends having clear conversations in a way they can understand about what can be expected and why.
"Tell kids, not to worry them, but let them know that there may be more difficulties in interacting with their peers, and let them know that it's okay if it's a stress on them. It's okay if it's a concern, and that you're there for them if they need to talk to you, if they need to voice some of those worries," she said.
Klein also said when it comes to deciding which route to go with your child, it's about knowing your child and how they would thrive best. You know your student more than anyone else, and what they need.