As our world and country reels from the shock of being thrust into self-quarantines, reduced interactions, and social distancing, we are caught in a delicate balance of embracing this time of solitude and struggling with the sudden isolation. During the pandemic of Covid-19, we are needing to find a new normal in these scary, uncertain times.
If you are not already practicing social distancing, this is the time to start, as much as you possibly can. For our family, as with so many others, this means that we are currently staying home (or in open nature areas) and out of public spaces. Physically isolating from the outside world, except for limited grocery runs and necessary jobs, is hard, but important.
With what minimal exchanges are happening, we are careful to maintain a safe 6-10’ distance from those outside of our household. We are keeping your germs away from us and our germs away from you, for the safety of all. This was an easy decision for us because we have beloved grandparents that are in a high-risk bracket and we want to protect them as much as possible.
Chasing Away the Loneliness
People are naturally social creatures and need human interactions. We thrive on closeness, camaraderie, and face-to-face conversation. But in a world where our lives literally depend on physically distancing ourselves, it can be very surreal to live within an isolated bubble.
So though, for a while, introverts might be thankful for some real quiet time, and extroverts may simply channel their energies into projects around the house, we all need to reach out and virtually touch someone on a regular basis. For your emotional and psychological well-being, don’t become a hermit or think that you should.
Instead, let’s explore how best to maintain your friendships, keep in touch with your relatives, and check on your neighbors. We are lucky to live in the age of technology, where we are already using social media, messaging and texting services, and phone calls to stay in touch with one another.
Top 10 Social Connection Ideas While Physically Distant
#1: Start a Group Chat
Add your extended family (or close friends) to a group chat on your favorite messaging system. Then, whenever you talk to each other, everyone else can join the conversation in real time. To share special moments collectively, start a video chat.
We did this today for my niece’s 22nd birthday, adding all the grandparents, her parents and siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins to the group. Together we all sang Happy Birthday to her and enjoyed the moment, though we reside in 4 separate homes. It was the bright spot of our whole day and brought smiles to all.
#2: Take a Neighborhood Walk
Gather your family and get outside for some fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. As you walk along, wave and talk across the lawn to your friends, family, and neighbors that live nearby. Give air hugs! Blow kisses! Sing a song together! Ask how each other are doing and how they are holding up.
We are lucky to live down the road from the kids’ grandparents, so on the warmest day this week, we decided to walk to the creek while stopping by and visiting with them along the way as they stood on their porches. My kids couldn’t stop grinning because even though they can’t go visit in the traditional sense, they got that connection time that they were missing. And the look on the grandparents’ faces at our surprise visit was pure joy!
#3: Write a Letter, but Send it Virtually
An old-fashioned novelty with a modern twist, handwrite a chatty letter, but take a picture of it and email it to the recipient. It is sure to bring a smile to the face of your loved one. Got an old box of greeting cards stashed away? This is a great time to use them up! Write your personal message and then snap a photo of the inside and outside of the card, then send the photos via text. Have your kids paint a picture, then snap a picture of their artwork to send to their friends.
Though it may be safe to physically send your letters and cards, out of an abundance of caution, using electronic devices to send the messages may be a better choice until we understand better how long the virus can survive on various surfaces. The point here is for you to create a personal connection that sometimes is missing in regular typed texts and messages.
#4: Make Memories in Non-Traditional Ways
During the normal course of life, when we spend time together, we are making memories. When we are under quarantine, it’s a lot harder to do that. But, it’s not impossible! Share funny memes, comics, and jokes with each other. Humor is always okay even during a seriously challenging experience! Take random, funny, or staged pictures of what you are doing, eating, or watching and swap them with your friends and extended family.
Create fun challenges for each other, do scavenger hunts around the house & share your results with each other, make funny faces together with your phone’s filters, or play games (either through video chat, a gaming console, or an electronic game app on your phone). Drop an emoji or virtual sticker to your friend via text whenever you think of them. Be silly and share your life.
#5: Create a Buddy System
Think about who in your circle would benefit most from a check-in call every day (or every other day). It may be an elderly neighbor, a friend who is experiencing anxiety or depression, your parent, or whoever else may be feeling isolated or lonely during this time. It’s even okay if it’s YOU that needs it most! Then, organize a phone call (or video call) at a set time with your check-in buddy.
Ask about each other’s well-being and don’t settle for buzz phrases like “I’m fine” or “I’m good.” Truly flesh out how each other is holding up and give each other the chance to say what’s on their heart. Also, give each other a rundown of your days, discuss any fears or concerns, and encourage each other. In this way, you can provide your buddy some needed human interaction and ward off feelings of despair.
#6: Organize a Watch Party
Some streaming services (like Netflix) are equipped to let you watch shows and movies with your friends and family, wherever they may be! It works by synchronizing video playback and also adds in a group chat so that you can really feel each other’s presence. Long-distance movie nights are a thing and that feels pretty amazing!
Make a plan ahead of time so that you all are ready at the same time, pop some popcorn, and get ready to laugh or cry together. This is a great way to have fun with the people you love even when you can’t be in the same room. In many ways, it will seem like they are right beside each other. (Minus the snuggles.)
#7: Have a Virtual Sleepover
Are you kids missing their friends? I know mine sure are! Organize a virtual slumber party! Pull out the sleeping bags, have the kids Facetime each other all night (or you know, until they fall asleep!), watch a movie together (Hello Watch Party!), and make sure the kids have similar snacks so that they can feel like they are more together.
If the kids are feeling restless, let them listen to music together and have a virtual dance party. Just make sure you have them set the phone or tablet in a safe place so that they don’t knock it over while they are spinning and laughing together. Kids are adaptable and though it may not be quite the same as a normal sleepover, they will love this activity and virtual friend time!
#8: Stargaze the Same Skies On Warm Nights
Nothing quite brings distant people together than watching the same starry sky. To get the most out of the experience, pick a warm night so that you can get comfortable. Plan ahead with the friend that you are missing. Both of you will take a blanket to your respective yards and lay down. It helps if you both lie down in the same direction so that you are viewing the sky from the same perspective.
Call your friend and have a heartfelt conversation while pointing out what you see in the sky. Watch together for falling stars, satellites blinking, or the lights from any airplanes (if you aren’t too far away from each other). Use these moments to unwind, reminisce, and feel closely connected. When you are finished, wish your friend a good night and don’t be surprised if you feel warm fuzzies.
#9: Share A Virtual Meal
For this, the idea is that you are going to make and eat exactly the same meal as your friends. To do this, you will agree ahead of time on a recipe or meal plan. (Make sure you both have all the right ingredients already.) Pick a time that works for both of you and start cooking…you in your home, them in theirs.
When you have your meals prepared, take pictures of everything you made and share them with your friend and see how similar (or different) they came out. Video chat during the meal and share some over dinner conversation. Discuss what your meal tastes like and decide whose turned out the best. Don’t forget to laugh together and post your experience to social media if you both agree.
#10: Do Virtual Bedtime Stories for the Kids
Are the grandkids separated from their grandparents or other special adults in their life? Turn on the web camera through Skype, or Facetime/Video Chat, and break out the children’s favorite picture books for a nighttime routine that will help them feel safe, secure, and loved. And who doesn’t love to end their day hearing goodnight wishes from the special children in their life?
This can be such a sweet and special ritual for family members who are quarantined apart because we are all trying to protect those who are at high-risk of the coronavirus. Beyond just reading a story, it can also be a time to share a special song, prayer, or virtual hugs and kisses.
I hope that no matter what your circumstances are during this crazy time that we are living through, that you will make a point to reach out to your friends and extended family and keep building connections, albeit virtual as they must be for the time being. Do this not only for your sake but for the sake of your loved ones. We all need each other and more so now than ever.
Stay safe my friends, physically, mentally, and emotionally!