Coronavirus Has Been REALLY Hard on Families That Live Far Apart
As someone who moved across the country and away from family, these times of social distancing and limited travel have been extremely tough. Read on for tips on how families can remain connected and still celebrate special life moments while being forced to be apart.
In supporting efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus, our family has been isolating ourselves, practicing social distancing when we do go out, and minimizing reasons to leave our home. For the last year, we had plans to take the kids to visit with my family on the west coast of Canada so they could get to know their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins better. With rising cases of coronavirus across the United States, and limited flight availability, we decided not to take the kids cross country, though the choice was pretty much made for us. This has been devastating for so many reasons. I’m sure those of you that have been distanced from family all this time can relate.
I never really understood the complete value of my tight knit family until I moved to the east coast of the United States from where I had been residing in California. It really hit me when my husband and I had our first child. When I was in California, it was a hop, skip, and a jump from Newport Beach to Vancouver, B.C. With a flight time of under three hours, going home to visit family was comparable to how those in east coast cities hop on a plane to visit second homes located in sunny Florida. Travel was easy, inexpensive, and quick. You could even drive if you wanted to. With such a vast distance across our huge North American continent, driving is not really an option with two young kids in the backseat. Now with coronavirus again on the rise, it seems like flights aren’t really an option either.
What can families do to remain connected and reduce the anxiety, disappointment, and oftentimes outright sadness, of not being able to see one another in person? Here are some activities our family has engaged in to stay connected and lessen our feelings of missing out on special occasions.
Schedule Weekly Zoom Calls
Having a weekly call on the calendar prioritizes face to face connection and allows opportunities for children to become familiar with far away family members. Even though our calendars may have less outside obligations on them, it is still easy for the day to get away from us. Intentions to speak with the grandparents can melt away by the inevitable distractions of daily life with children. Having a set time means all parties will be ready and prepared to sit down and spend some quality time “together.”
Hold Virtual Family Events to Celebrate Special Occasions
We had some major milestone birthdays this year, and sadly, we were not able to celebrate them together as a family. While I joke about the big parties being postponed until next year, and all birthday boys and girls being allowed to shave one year off their age, it really has been a disappointment. To minimize those feelings, we have held virtual birthday parties, complete with cake and ice cream. While not the same, it was kind of a novelty for the kids. Get out all the devices in each home and have everyone connect to someone else. Pass them around and everyone can chat one on one or in larger groups.
Surprise Letters or Packages in the Mail
The former suggestion was a segway into this next idea. It never hurts just to pop something into the mail for a loved one. Whether a birthday, or just because, receiving something as a surprise in the mail really makes people feel good. Have you ever received something nice in the mail that you had no idea was coming? The unexpected surprise can really brighten one’s day.
Pen Pals for the Kiddos
As a child of the ’80s, pen pals were all the rage. It seems almost quaint now in our hyper connected society, though kids writing letters to one another as opposed to sending texts, is a great learning experience, not to mention being super cute! This idea will probably be more embraced by kids on the younger side, though an older cousin might enjoy writing letters and sending them to a younger cousin as well.
Read Books to Kids Over Zoom
We have seen numerous book clubs for kids sprout up with offerings to read bedtime stories to kids over Zoom. It’s a cute idea that keeps kids connected to their friends and the greater community. Why not have the grandparents try reading a special book to children before bed? It’s a nice way to share favorite book titles and create warm and fuzzy memories for the entire family.
Share Photos of Prepared Meals at Dinnertime
Lucky for me, I married into a family that loves to cook, and they are very good at it! My husband is the head chef in our household. He and family members on his side of the family frequently share photos of nightly meals. Consuming meals together via Zoom could be a fun way to have dinner “together”.
Start Planning Ahead for Happier Times
As someone who is currently experiencing the hard reality not being able to see family, I can understand how it makes one reevaluate priorities in life. Perhaps this is a wake up call, and future plans can be made for life changes so that family can be closer to one another. At the very least, consider putting a plan together to see each other in the near future when everyone is able to travel again. While the future is uncertain, having something to look forward to can improve everyone’s spirits. Many hotels are being very flexible with traveler’s plans if reservations need to be canceled and modified. Check the cancelation policy first before booking anything.
You’ve heard this before and it’s easier said than done. Thinking positive and engaging in activities of self-care really do help. Ensure everyone is getting enough rest, eating healthy, and maintaining an exercise routine. Going on a drive and getting a change of scenery can help. Maybe drive to a local park or forest, and go for a walk. Being amongst nature can reset the mind and reduce anxieties. Some parks are closed so always check before visiting, and be sure to follow all recommended health guidelines.
If you’re missing family during this unprecedented time, I feel your pain. Drop a comment to share how you and your loved ones are staying connected. This too shall pass, in the meantime, sending good health your way!