Updated: Sep 30
In 2020 we all became familiar with the concept of video conferencing. It was a useful tool for staying connected to colleagues and clients as we learned to work together whilst maintaining our bubbles.
Now, what might serve us well in the workplace does not necessarily serve us well when it comes to truly staying connected and involved with our friends and family. Video conversations are often not very natural. We find ourselves facing off with a screen between us, battling internet glitches and bad lighting. Conversations can seem stilted and unnatural, and we can end a call feeling as though we are no closer to having enjoyed good conversation and quality time together.
As adults, we are aware of the differences between video conversations and the natural ebb and flow of a good conversation over a relaxed coffee or heated discussion over dinner. We can make allowances and cling to the fact that we will eventually be able to connect face-to-face again. But what is it like for kids? Video conversations are becoming their new experience of normal. Is quality conversation with the children and teenagers in our life at risk?
During this season, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we relate to each other over video calls and how this reality may change our relationships’ quality. We are all experiencing a certain level of “Zoom fatigue”, and the thought of putting effort into yet another call can be exhausting. Children who are schooling online may also be struggling with the burden of adding extra video calls into their day, no matter how much they love us.
After chatting with friends who are working super hard to stay connected with their nieces, nephews and grandchildren, here are my top tips for staying connected through video calls.
Schedule video calls with the small people in your life. This will give you both a sense of anticipation and something to look forward to.
Ask the parent to help your niece or nephew prepare for the call. They can think about something they would like to tell you and gather any items they want to show you.
Be prepared to move. If you are able to move your camera out of the office or away from the lounge, the possibilities for your video call are endless.
Plan a playdate. Sharing an activity is a natural way to connect with each other and will promote easy conversation. You may need to have the child’s parents prepare a few things for the video call, but planning ahead makes this possible.
Some suggestions include:
Sharing a tea party
Make a sandwich together. Ask your small person to give you instructions on how to make the sandwich and follow their steps.
Build something. Whether it’s building with blocks, Lego or even cardboard boxes, ask your small person to give you instructions on what to make. If they have building materials on hand, they can construct something and then tell you how to make it too.
Acting out stories
Sharing YouTube clips via screen sharing. A great place to start is with Storyline online.
Treasure Hunting - ask your small person to find an item and bring it back to you before giving them the next clue or item to find. Children love a competition and will happily try and beat their best time in returning to their device to show off what they have found. E.g. Bring me something soft that you can snuggle, find me something red you can wear on your feet, show me something cold and crunchy…
Take your favourite small person with you into your everyday activities. For example, a preschooler would love to help you sort out your washing by giving you directions and telling you what to put where.
In short, think about how you most like to spend time with the special child in your life when you see each other in person. If you start thinking beyond the office or your comfy chair, you will discover a creative way to do what you like best with them. You will rekindle their enthusiasm for video calls with you and you’ll find that your relationship continues to grow naturally, despite your separation.
Check out Lynda’s tips and advice for connecting with her grandchildren over video calls. She and her husband got creative and made a ‘day in the life of’ video for their tribe whom they haven’t been able to see face-to-face for many months.
Alison McDonald, Director NSP