How to Understand Social Distancing

The term “social distancing” is all over the news, but what does it really mean? This term refers to staying a specific distance away from other people to help prevent illnesses from spreading. The specific distance is determined by health experts and national governments, and social distancing is a recommended medical practice to help “flatten the curve,” or lower the number of COVID-19 cases throughout the world. With all the misinformation online, take a few minutes review how to social distance and learn why it’s so important to help stop COVID-19.


Method 1 of 2: The Basics Download Article

How to Understand Social Distancing

Know that the term “physical distancing” also refers to “social distancing.” You may hear the terms “social distancing” and “physical distancing” used a lot. While these terms mean the same thing, the World Health Organization (WHO) actually prefers the term “physical distancing” over “social distancing.” The main purpose of this practice is to stay separated, which can lower your risk of spreading or receiving COVID-19. However, for your mental health, it’s still important to stay engaged and connected with your loved ones, even if it’s through a video chat.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Stay 6 ft (1.8 m), or your government’s recommended distance, away from other people. COVID-19 typically spreads through droplets, like sneezes or coughs, as well as germ-infested surfaces, which are typically found in public spaces. These droplets can travel a pretty long distance through the air, which is why physical distancing is so important. Try to put a lot of space between you and the surrounding people.

  • Check with your government for the most up-to-date advice on how far to distance from other people.
  • In the US, a distance of 6 ft (1.8 m) is advised. For reference, 2 golden retrievers standing back-to-back, a sedan, a dining room table, or a long sofa are all about 6 ft (1.8 m). Pretend 1 of these things is between you and the surrounding people.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Wear a face mask whenever you go out in public. Since COVID-19 typically spreads through coughs and sneezes, it’s best to keep your mouth and nose covered whenever you go outside. Both medical masks and cloth coverings can provide ample protection when you’re out and about, and can prevent your own germs from spreading to other people.

  • Always double-check that your mask is covering both your nose and mouth, or else it won’t be very effective.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Don’t attend parties or big gatherings. Social distancing can be really lonely, and it’s perfectly valid and normal to miss the company of others. Unfortunately, party-goers aren’t practicing proper social distancing guidelines, and there are many opportunities for germs to spread when lots of people are close together. With this in mind, stick to video chats or phone calls when you’re craving some social interaction.

  • Always follow the specified COVID-19 restrictions provided for your area, like the maximum number of people allowed in a social gathering.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Stay away from crowded areas. Going out in public is inevitable, especially when you’re going to pick up groceries and other necessities. If choose to visit a public space, check that they’re practicing safe social distancing measures, so you can stay safe during your visit.

  • As a general rule of thumb, stay away from most public spaces unless you absolutely have to go there.
  • Do your best to wipe down any surfaces that other people may have touched, and use contactless payment options whenever you can.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Call or video chat with loved ones instead of visiting. Get in touch with a friend or family member and see if they’d like to chat or catch-up. If a phone call isn’t cutting it for you, see if they’d be interested in video chatting. While there’s no real replacement for in-person social gatherings, virtual hang-outs can help you stay connected.

  • For instance, you can watch movies with others using “party” programs on popular streaming services.
  • There are plenty of multiplayer games you can download to play with other people.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Work from home instead of your usual workplace. Social distancing doesn’t just apply to your grocery runs—it’s an aspect that you should add to every part of your life. If possible, talk to you supervisors and see if working from home is a viable option, so you don’t risk spreading germs to your co-workers.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Order delivery instead of eating at restaurants. COVID-19 is exhausting both emotionally and mentally, and there’s no reason for you to cook meals every single day. It’s great to support your local restaurants—just do it safely by ordering delivery through the restaurant or a third-party delivery service.

  • Delivery drivers make a lot of effort to stay sanitary.

Method 2 of 2: Explaining Social Distancing to Children Download Article

How to Understand Social Distancing

Read educational children’s books to your little ones. Search online for children’s books and videos that offer bite-sized, educational messages about the importance of social distancing. This is a great way to introduce the topic to young ones without making it seem overwhelming.

  • For instance, “Time to Come In, Bear” is a great children’s story you can share with your own kids.
  • You can also use simple analogies to drive the point home. Remind your kids that social distancing is similar to standing back or pulling over when an ambulance or fire truck goes by. While social distancing may be inconvenient, it’s a valuable way to keep other people safe.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Turn social distancing into a game for really little kids. Tell your young children that they’re superheroes and that they can “save” the world by keeping their distance from the surrounding people. Encourage your children to try to dodge and avoid the people they pass on the street. To make the game more engaging, offer points and rewards for your child’s actions.

  • For instance, you can give your kid a “point” for sneezing into their elbow, or running to avoid someone on the street. Once they have 10 points, they can earn a small prize.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Show your children kid-friendly videos that explain social distancing. There are many videos on the web that help break down what exactly social distancing is to younger viewers. Fun videos can make the topic a lot less overwhelming and may help hit home with your children.

  • For example, Sesame Street collaborated with CNN to create a fun, informational about COVID-19. You can watch it here:
  • This is a great option for both preschoolers and young grade school kids.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Engage younger kids by turning face masks into something fun. Invest in fun-looking cloth masks that your kids will really enjoy wearing. This can help your children really look forward to staying safe when they go outside.

  • For instance, you can get a mask with a dinosaur design, or one that makes your child look like a cat.
  • Your kids may also enjoy masks with many fun colors and patterns.

How to Understand Social Distancing

Explain social distancing in more detail to older kids. Chances are, your grade school children won’t be as interested in games and stories that explain the basics of social distancing. Without going into any scary details, explain how COVID-19 spreads effortlessly, and how social distancing helps to “flatten the curve” of how many people catch the illness. It may help to show them a graph or other diagram that shows why social distancing is important.

  • For instance, you can say something like: “COVID-19 is quite like a cold, and it spreads easily from person to person. When we stand apart from other people and keep our distance, we lower the risk of getting sick, as well as spreading the virus to anyone else.”


  • If you test positive for COVID-19, stay home and isolate yourself from any roommates or family members that you live with. Thanks! Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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