When school cohorts form playground cliques

In my daughter’s entire eight-and-a-half years, I don’t think anything she’s ever said has shocked me as much as what she admitted last week.

It all stemmed from school recess — and since everything in our lives has been affected by COVID-19, it’s no surprise that even childhood friendships have been shaken up.

Our daughter attends a large elementary school with hundreds of students. In previous years, they spent their recesses and lunch hours roaming around the school grounds with at least two entire grades. The only limitation was that they had to choose if they were going “out front” (playground, basketball court, pavement area, etc.) or “out back” (larger playground, field, sliding hill, etc.)

Now, in the times of COVID-19, outdoor play is very different. The kids must stay in their class cohorts, and each cohort is assigned a different “zone.” They can’t leave their zone or mix with other classes. Our son has even described a “class bin” of outdoor balls, so they can play without getting contaminated by another class’s germs. It’s smart, and it’s working.

Neither of my kids mind the change, thankfully. They each have friends in their class, and they don’t seem to care that they’re told where to play. They each have a favourite outdoor zone, and that’s it — end of story.

The problem is that it’s not working for everybody.

Having a very limited number of children in a zone — just the students in their own class — means not everyone has a good chance of scoring a playmate for their outdoor time.

Sometimes, kids don’t have their good friends in their class. They might spot them across the soccer field, but they can’t go to them because they’re not in the same cohort.

Sometimes, kids are struggling with their fellow classmates. They’ve just spent hours with them, and now they can’t even escape them on their “break.” (Imagine taking every coffee break with a colleague who bugged you!)

Sometimes, kids are shy, and it takes a lot of nerve for them to ask a classmate if they can join them. If they get shot down, they’re often hurt and too embarrassed to ask anyone else. They can’t go find a friend in another class, and they can’t even run off to another part of the playground. They’re stuck.

This is affecting my daughter, but not in the way you think. She’s not the one being left out — she’s been the one, at times, leaving others out …

Continue reading in my parenting column, The Mom Scene …

So what do you think?

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