During this time of COVID-19 quarantine, we are asked to practice social distancing, but I agree with those who suggest that physical distancing may be a better term. It is critical for us to remain socially connected, but also to practice safe physical distancing, especially for the sake of our elderly family and friends.
While we want to keep our loved ones safe, we are also aware that this can be a very isolating time for grandparents who love to visit with young family members. Here are some ways you can stay in touch with elderly friends and relatives when getting together in person is not an option. (Some grandparents may need a little help installing and using technology at first, but patience and practice usually pay off.)
MarcoPolo is an app that allows you to video record a message to send to other app users. Grandparents can watch you as you record the video live, or they can watch later at a time that’s convenient for them. And they can answer back in the same way. This is a fun way to share a story, a joke, a song, or a brief message. Grandparents can read a story to your children, or kids can practice reading to them. Messages can be watched over and over again, which is lovely when you’re separated physically.
FaceTime, Skype, Google Duo, and Zoom
These services all allow you to see the other person’s face when you are talking. It’s the next best thing when you’re not able to be physically together. If you can’t have dinner with the grandparents in person, you can do it electronically. Some platforms allow many users to be involved, so you can have a big family gathering with people coast to coast or around the world. You can even play a game or watch a movie together.
Text and Email
These are perhaps more accessible than some of the more modern apps for smart phones, but they are still very useful. Our family loves to share pictures or memes via text and email. It’s a nice quick way to share a story or showcase a completed school project.
This may sound obvious, but how many of us avoid talking on the phone like the plague? Nevertheless, it is wonderful to hear the sound of a familiar voice. You can make an agreement with Grandpa that when either of you hears a good joke, you will call the other and tell them. You can go back and forth as often as you like. Or you could arrange to call and have tea with Grandma every day at 4 pm, or ask her to call at 7 pm each day to read the kids a bedtime story. Establishing communication as part of your regular daily rhythm gives everyone something to look forward to and plan on.
Old-Fashioned Letters and Cards
Everyone still loves to receive mail. Some of our elders simply don’t do any kind of electronics other than a phone, so sending mail is very important. It also gives your children a wonderful opportunity to practice handwriting, letter writing skills, and addressing an envelope.
For fun try sending a card with a tea bag so you can share a cup even across the miles. Send a joke or riddle including everything but the punchline, and have them call to hear the rest. Drawings, pictures, stickers, pretty paper, and Bible verses are all good ways to keep letter writing fun and interesting. And the anticipation of getting a letter back is something every child should experience.
- Send each other a daily good morning check-in via MarcoPolo
- Ask a grandparent to teach your child chess or play a game of checkers over Zoom
- Mail the grandparents the same puzzle you are working on as a family, and check in on your progress each day over text or FaceTime
- Have children and grandparents draw pictures of the same subject (like a cardinal in a tree) and then send them to each other
- Read books together over the phone
- Pray with each other
- Send pictures of the days activities
- Begin a journal or time capsule
- Start a scrapbook of letters
- Ask Grandma to teach you a special family recipe over Zoom or Google Duo
- Ask Grandpa to do bedtime prayers each night and Grandma to sing a lullaby
In other words, whatever gifts, talents, interests, and strengths are unique to your family and friends, see how they can be incorporated into your daily or weekly rhythm. Short constant contact is often preferable to letting lengthy spans of time go by.
If there are elderly people in your neighborhood or church, see if one of these ideas will help you connect. Your kids will benefit so much from multi-generational friendships as well as learning the value of service and compassion. Now is the perfect time to enrich those relationships and take care of each other all at the same time.
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