There is nothing that we need now more than a connection to our loved ones. Many people are up to their ears in teaching and entertaining their children all day long. As a parent, there is nothing you love more than time with your children but sometimes you need a break to recharge or get things done so that your one on one time can be as stress-free and fun as possible. Other people are struggling with a completely opposite issue. Essential workers, noncustodial parents, grandparents, and loved ones, in general, are missing the children in their lives very badly right now. They probably haven't been able to tuck the kiddos they love into bed, or snuggle up with them and watch a movie in well over a month.
There is a way that everyone can benefit; staying connected at a distance. Connecting with the children you love obviously benefits the person who is not physically in the house. However, it can also benefit the custodial parent by having someone virtually entertain and bond with the children while they get some much needed alone time, or can finally send out that email that has been on their to-do list since last week.
Ways to connect without technology:
Here you can see our newest tipsheet that features ways that you can connect with children if you cannot physically be with them. These tips and ideas come straight from parents who are in the same shoes as you are. This is how they are connecting right now, and wanted to share it with other parents who might be struggling to find unique ways to connect. We know that not every family has access to technology so the ideas for connecting are broken up by whether or not they require technology. The section on the left details ways that do not include technology. Writing a letter or drawing a picture (this is a great way to send something for a child who can't read. It doesn't matter that you are not Picasso) is a great way to let them know you are thinking about them. Getting things in the mail (that aren't bills) is exciting for everybody and this can bring them some excitement in their day. If you are able to, give them a call and ask them if they liked the letter/drawing and ask if they would send you one back.
Depending on your proximity and access to a vehicle you could take a trip over to their house. Ask the primary guardian of the child(ren) can stand by a window or the door. Slowly drive by and honk your horn, play their favorite song, or yell out about how much you miss them. A similar idea is to dust off the sidewalk chalk in your garage and draw them a picture in their driveway. Ask the primary guardian to tell the kids to go to their window so they can see your artwork.
Ways to connect with technology:
The most obvious way to connect right now is over the phone. While phone calls are a great way to connect it can be difficult to find things to talk about right now. Days seem to be running together and more likely than not much has been changing in yours or their day to day lives. Opt for shorter, more frequent calls with younger children. This allows you both to have a moment to look forward to and also, especially if your kids are younger, there will be no awkwardness about what to talk about. One way to ensure that you have topics to discuss is to "have a meal with them." Ask their primary guardian if you can call the kids during a snack or mealtime. Plan your own meals around them so they can have "breakfast with dad, mom, grandpa, etc." and you can discuss what you are both eating.
Many companies are doing their part to help people cope with the new normal for right now. Video chat platforms have begun to offer limited-time offers for free and discounted accounts. Marco-Polo is an app that could be perfect if the children in your life are younger, or you are on an opposite schedule than they are. This app allows you to record a video message of yourself and leave it for somebody to watch when they open the app, and then they can leave one back for you. Again; this gives you both something to look forward to and can be a really fun way to connect.
For more information on free or low cost services or activities check out our #HomeTogether Resource page with over 400 ideas and necessary services (including food banks, rental protections, crisis lines).
Other apps include; Zoom, Google Hangout, Skype, Facetime, and many others. These are all platforms that allow you to talk in real-time with people. Use these to get to see the kids in your lives. Try and have fun with it like you're actually together in person! Ask them to show you their artwork/schoolwork they have been doing or plan something fun like a pajama party. Try and coordinate watching the same movie or TV show as them and discuss what's happening/laugh at it together.
If you are a non-custodial parent right now we understand that it is incredibly difficult for you to not see your children. This can be made even more difficult if you and the custodial parent/guardian do not always see eye to eye and have don't have a great relationship. One of the tips that a parent gave to us is to make sure that you document every time you make an effort to see your children during this time. This documentation could be useful when things return to normalcy and courts open back up. You will want to be able to show that a consistent effort was made on your part to connect.
Why connecting helps everybody involved:
If you are the parent that is sheltering-in-place with your children you probably feel very lucky for all of this extra family time, but also very exhausted. Working from home, cooking 3 meals a day (sometimes it feels more like 300), trying to teach young children, arranging online therapy sessions, all while attempting to ease your children's and your own anxiety about what is going on in the world is overwhelming, to say the least. Pre-quarantine you were able to get some help from your co-parent, your essential worker spouse, your parents/inlaws, or any other adult that is a facet in your child(ren)'s life. While obviously they cannot come over or take your kids on a day out they can still help you entertain them for a little.
By having those people video chat, or call your children you can get some much deserved me time in the next room, or try and get some things done that you haven't had time for. Arrange with the people calling to have them call your children when you plan on making a meal, or something productive so you can have a moment of peace. It also gives your kids something different to look forward to. Children miss the adults in their lives just as much as the adults miss the children and video calls can benefit everybody. An idea to make it even more helpful for everybody is to let the person calling help with some homework. If you need to go over vocabulary words or math problems with your kids send them to the person calling beforehand. Let them quiz your kids and be involved in their at-home education.
Times are undeniably tough right now. One of the few things that can keep our spirits high is time with loved ones. Whether it is via mail, phone calls or video chats talking to the children you love can brighten both your day and theirs.
Are you staying connected in ways we didn't mention? Let us know! We would love to hear from you.