Since the Covid pandemic, the way we develop relationships and interact with others has changed dramatically. As parents we’ve had time to assimilate ‘the new normal’, and we’ve also had time to help our children engage and adapt to this new situation that seems to be here to stay.
But what about babies born during these difficult times? How does being born in a time of masking and social distancing affect a new baby? How can we socialize young babies born during a tough time?
Let’s see how we can help babies born from 2020 onwards establish the best possible social relationships with other children and with people in general.
What is social distancing?
Social distancing is a fairly recent concept. It’s a health protection measure where people keep a safe distance of about 2 meters from others with the intention of minimizing contact between sick and healthy individuals.
The main aim of social distancing is to reduce the opportunity for the virus to be transmitted from one individual to another; it’s about trying to preserve the well-being of the largest possible number of individuals.
Social distancing rules
The social distancing rules are quite simple. When people are outside their own homes they should try to keep a safe distance from others. This distance should be about 1.5 meters. These social distancing rules apply to people we don’t share a house with; they don’t apply to members of the same family.
What is socialization?
The concept of socialization has two main meanings.
The first means the activity of mixing socially with others; the other meaning is more about educational content, where it’s defined as the process of learning to behave in an appropriate way that is acceptable to the society we live in.
Both definitions are very relevant when discussing social distancing and babies’ and young children’s learning.
When we talk about ‘mixing socially with others’, it refers to the actual circumstances of the tough times we’re currently living in, with the pandemic restrictions.
The second definition relates to the appropriate ways of helping our children and other infants to socialize in a time where a lack of socialization might become a problem if we’re not careful.
Socializing babies during Covid
The most important thing about socializing babies during Covid is actually socializing them with their parents and families – but especially their mothers. A baby doesn’t really need socialization with anyone apart from family members.
In western societies, becoming a mother has proved to be quite difficult, as the postpartum period isn’t well understood. Research shows how perinatal mental health is vastly ignored and the available resources like research, funding, and perinatal mental health providers are not enough to cover what women need after the birth of their babies.
As the saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. One parent can do it on her own but at a very high expense, in terms of self-care, social development, and having to give up many things other parents actually enjoy.
Having the right social support is essential to new parents. Mother and baby groups were designed as a space where new mothers could find that ‘village’ and share a feeling of belonging that is so important.
Most mothers, especially if they are lone parents or their partners spend most of the day outside the family home, spend most of the day in caring and talking to a baby or other little kids.
Spending time with other adults and other families was a haven for most new mothers. Mother and baby groups gave mothers the time to share similar concerns with other mothers, take a short break from that one-to-one relationship with a young child and unwind a bit from the difficulties of mothering.
When these groups were discontinued, due to the measures taken to stop the spread of Covid, it was the mothers who suffered the consequences the most. Postnatal depression has been on the rise since social distancing measures were put in place.
Remember, babies don’t need to spend time with other babies or other children. The changes in socializing babies born during the Covid pandemic has taken the hardest toll on their mothers.
If you’re pregnant you might like to read Pregnant With Covid-19 | Symptoms, Risks And Effects.
When do babies notice other babies?
There isn’t a straight answer to this question. Not only is each baby unique but our social circumstances are also very different.
In general, girls are more aware of their social surroundings than boys. Women’s social skills are innate as, since prehistoric times, women have been the caregivers. Basically, women have been in charge of looking after their ‘tribe’.
Whether or not babies notice others also depends on the time spent with other children. If a baby has older siblings, she’ll probably be more aware of the different ages of children around her.
If a baby is a twin, the way she notices her twin sister is going to be different from the way an only child reacts.
If a child becomes an older sibling before one year of age her awareness of the new baby will be quite different from that of younger siblings.
I am aware I’m not giving you an age – not even an approximate one – but there’s a big gap of knowledge when it comes to child development in the stage prior to full verbal communication development (from birth to young toddlers).
When do babies need to socialize with other babies?
The short answer would be never. Babies don’t need to socialize with other babies. Babies’ social skills are 100% focused on their primary caregivers as this bonding is crucial for their survival. Babies will notice other kids, starting with those in their family unit, when they start to develop awareness of self and others.
We’re discussing whether there is a necessity for babies to socialize with other babies. Although the answer is that there’s no real need for this, babies will benefit a lot, however, from socializing with other babies.
When they are exposed to different environments where there are others as vulnerable as they are, they’ll learn different social skills, play with different toys and other babies; all of this will involve learning new social cues.
Being exposed from a young age to different environments can only be beneficial for the appropriate development of a child’s social skills.
Socializing families with babies during Covid
Many parents have been under extreme stress during the Covid pandemic. Plans have been canceled and jobs and businesses have been postponed or shut down. Loved ones have been sick and the ability to care for them and stay close to them hasn’t been there in many cases.
At the same time, though, many couples have managed to parent their children and have even welcomed new members to their families.
Spending time with other families is a must for the sake of the mental health of the whole family.
Being outside in nature is always a fabulous way to reconnect, to feel grounded, and to recharge the batteries before continuing life indoors. Even if the weather is cold, you should make the effort to go outside as often as possible, even if only for a short time, and take a deep breath of fresh air.
It’s also a great opportunity for a young child to experience family life away from home, screen time, and the comfort of the expected in a secure base.
Grandparents can join in and connect with the little ones at the same time. They will also benefit from being outside. It will help them stay close to their grandchildren while interacting and playing with them.
Being outside can mean a trip to the park or the playground or just a place where the whole family can breathe fresh air and have the opportunity to run, play, scream or even meet some other people or friends.
Baby socialization near me
When the weather doesn’t permit being outdoors there are still other ways of socialization. Many indoors facilities have emerged or been readapted for this new era; other social skills are emerging, such as the importance of eye contact, turn taking and being patient.
More and more ideas are surging in these times of Covid. Ask the council or the local school about family-oriented activities, and specifically about the age range they are designed for.
Parents and children will adapt to new situations and the new social measures shouldn’t take a toll on young children’s development.
If your child is a bit older, you might want to read Halloween Alternatives During Covid | Things You Can Do.
Although socializing in person is always better than doing it via a screen, we have to take advantage of what’s available to us. In a time of social distancing, being able to video chat with those we cannot socialize with is a great asset. When social distancing is mandatory, being able to spend time with our loved ones – even onscreen – has been good for our mindsets. It has been a huge life saver for many families in isolation.
What happens if you don’t interact with your baby?
Babies don’t need other children during the first stages of their lives but they definitely need their parents and, ideally, their mothers.
Every human being needs social interaction from a very young age. Babies develop their cuteness and their ability to smile so that others will interact with them. Social interaction is a tremendously important skill that has important long-term effects.
The story about King Frederick II of Sicily is a good illustration of this. He reigned in the thirteenth century and carried out an unfortunate experiment.
His idea was to see which type of language little ones would develop if they were never spoken to. He removed babies from their mothers and put them together in a nursery in the care of nurses who were instructed to attend just to the babies’ primary needs; this basically meant feeding them and changing their diapers. This was to be done in complete silence and with minimal touch.
King Frederick’s experiment never proved which language those babies developed because, as you might have guessed, those babies died.
Babies need touch, love, and interaction as much as they need milk to survive.
Interacting with a baby is very important for that child’s development. It’s not only important; in fact, it’s absolutely necessary.
Babies are beautiful and they provoke feelings of protection and interaction in us. They expect a very concrete reaction from those around them; they need to be stimulated, loved, and interacted with. Cuteness is a baby’s most important socializing skill.