Many extended families are finding themselves isolated from one another during this challenging time of social distancing. In our modern world, we are fortunate to have video call so we can talk to and see one another.
But that doesn’t mean we cannot also rely on traditional methods of connection as well including traditional phone calls, letters or postcards and packages. We all can remember that feeling as a child when a parent said, “This mail is for you!” Grandparents and grandchildren are in a unique position to revive this treasured art form.
Here are some tips for families on connecting via video or phone calling and mail.
Tips for Calling —
Consider the Child
How old is the child? Do they nap and, if so, when? What is their likely attention span? It’s important to remember that young children live in the moment and are not able to think abstractly, which means they may not associate the image on the screen with their warm and comforting in-person feelings for a loved one. They also may be hungry or tired depending on the time of day. All of these factors may mean a 3 minute and not 30-minute interaction with a grandchild. It is absolutely not a reflection of their feelings for you.
Children, older and younger, will not be used to engaging in pointed conversation. Remember when you asked at the dinner table, “How was your day?” and heard only, “Fine.” To avoid that stilted prodding it is best to think of questions that inspire answers that go beyond one word. Some possibilities include:
- What has been your favorite thing about today?
- What were you doing before we started talking?
- What did you eat for lunch? What would you have eaten if you could have had anything you wanted?
- Would you rather be a butterfly or an elephant? Why?
- How have you been helping around the house this week?
Video Call: Look into the Camera
It can be easy to look at the video window to see your grandchild, but the child is looking at their video window at you! This means, if you want to make virtual eye contact, you should look at the camera at the top of your computer screen as often as you can and smile!
We all can remember that feeling as a child when a parent said, “This mail is for you!”
Tips for Writing —
Young children, especially Waldorf students, will appreciate beautiful, simple things and so many small treasures will fit in an envelope — a beautiful sticker, a photo of you as a child, a bookmark, an acorn — these are just some ways to brighten a smaller child’s day through the mail. You can accompany a treasure with a small note of love and encouragement or a fun quote or question. Don’t forget postcards and cards! They are a treasure in themselves.
Did you know that knowledge of family history is significantly correlated with well being in older children and adolescents? What an amazing time to share this knowledge! You could send a copy of a treasured family recipe. Tell stories and difficult times your family has lived through and thrived within from the past. Pick a fascinating tale from a relative that lived 100 years ago. “Did you know, your great grandmother was your age in 1918 and lived through the Spanish flu? This was what her life would have been like.” You can include labeled photos, newspaper articles, recipes and so much more! And, of course, older children love notes of encouragement, cards, and postcards too!