(CNN)During school shutdowns, educators did their best to re-create in-class learning online. But what about the kind of learning that happens in the hallways in-between classes, or on the playground during lunch and after school?
How to help your kids readjust to social dynamics at school
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Those in-person social interactions, the sort that emotionally challenge, enlighten and torment our children, were not transferable to video conference calls.
Now the kids are back, in the presence of the peers they click with, peers they forgot about, and peers they weren't particularly looking forward to seeing again. Late-childhood friendships are hard enough as it is, as the business of figuring out who we are in the context of others makes for a rather messy process. Add a year or more away from a physical campus, and social connection can be even trickier.
CNN spoke to Judith Warner, the author of "And Then They Stopped Talking To Me: Making Sense of Middle School," about how to help make this transition as tearless as possible for kids. Warner explained the awkwardness of reacclimating to social life as an older child, the brain chemistry of this period, and how well-meaning adults may be complicating matters for their kids. While she focuses her book and research on middle school kids, the lessons and insights apply to all ages, including (sometimes) grown-ups.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
CNN: How could all that time off from in-person school be making life more complicated for some kids now that they are back?
Judith Warner: Kids are experiencing a combination of being thrilled to be out and seeing people and doing at least some of the same activities they loved doing beforehand, and going through a period of adjustment to being back.
Kids who are struggling to socialize or reacclimate may be experiencing sensory overload and are exhausted. On one hand, socialization is hardwired. But on the other hand, if you don't socialize then the wiring doesn't develop at the same speed. Social skills, like academic skills, get stronger through practice. After a year and half off, it makes sense that kids' social skills are rusty. Mine are rusty, too.