One of the most challenging things about living at a distance and social distancing in general right now is communicating with children via a screen. Small children just don’t pay attention to chatting with grandparents through a screen. They don’t understand not being able to touch them, and they bore easily. Here are 10 tips on how to communicate with children online.
- Share a story. Get a book that you and the child both share and read together.
- Play a game. There are many online games that you can play with children. Some chatting programs, such as Facebook’s video messaging, have games built in.
- Watch a TV show or movie together. Plan ahead to chat during a favorite movie or show.
- Schedule to chat right before or during exciting events. Children are most chatty right after school or after big events.
- Use Moment Garden, Tinybeans, or a similar app to send and receive real time updates and pictures as the child goes about her or his day. The updates are invite only, so it is all private.
- Share a meal together. Plan ahead so everyone is sitting down to eat at about the same time. This has been one of the best things my family has done this year.
- Plant together. Send them some seeds and soil and plan to plant it together at the same time. Then every week, check in with each other to update each other on how the plant is growing.
- Snail mail. Don’t depend completely on technology to keep in touch with the kids in your life. Everyone loves getting mail. You can plan on opening the letters together for an added dimension. (If you handwrite your letters, remember that many children cannot read cursive, so you may need to print your letters!)
- Let the child take control of the conversation. My son prefers to talk to his grandma when he can just take my phone and run off to the other room. He gives her tours, and they have their own little games. Don’t try to force them to chat how you want them to beyond reminding them that “Grandma can’t see you if you aren’t on the screen.”
- Teach them something new. Do you have a hands-on skill that they’d like to learn? You can teach them via distance with a healthy helping of patience on both ends.
- Dress up. Think about making things different by wearing a hat or costume, using a hand puppet, or having a simple message in the background.
Having a long-distance relationship with children can be difficult as they notoriously have a short attention span. These tips can help it go smoother by keeping the child engaged and happy. There is nothing quite like the laughter of children.
By Bethanie Ryan