Grandmas! Grandpas! Aunties! Uncles!
by Sarah-Jane Tasteyre & Kimberly Ann Dasse
The holidays are a special time for the extended family. For some, it may be the one time a year they get to see the little ones. And those memories are precious. Your grandchild or niece or nephew will only be five once and they grow so terribly fast.
To create some fun family memories during the holidays -- despite COVID, we encourage everyone to get creative while staying safe. If travel is impossible or other conditions make it risky to meet in person, make time for family members via zoom.
To ensure that these meetings will be successful, you must prepare in advance. For instance, you should consider the time at which the call is organised. Those living in Asia often find that the only time they can set up zoom calls with family back in Europe or the US is in the evening, which is not ideal for children. Therefor if evening calls are unavoidable, for the best results, we suggest that the calls be short and sweet, focused, and purposeful.
Ideally everybody should feel comfortable. You should check the connection and sound beforehand and place the screen to include everybody, without one member of the family being left out and having to cram his face in uncomfortably. Ideally, make sure that, even if the children are not interacting all the time, they are in full view of the family. Do not use a phone, but rather a computer or a television screen, invest in a good webcam. A comfortable setting will do wonders on the way the call is carried out.
It can be hard for youngsters to focus on zoom, so give them a project to present. In advance of the call, they can draw a picture, learn to read a simple poem, or perform a dance. The preparation for the activity will focus the child on the call to come and the activity itself will be a nice memory for the relative. A definite winner in the activity’s category is joke telling. They are an ice breaker, and as a result the family can finally see a laughing and happy child, as opposed to the sulking one who would rather be in front of the real TV!
For older children, prepare them in advance -- on what to discuss when the inevitable questions come up: how is school going, what activities are you engaged in, etc. To avoid the inevitable responses of fine, nothing, etc., remind them of their good work in math recently or their achievement in an extra-curricular activity, or the challenges of learning to drive. It just takes a few sentences to put a smile on gramma’s face.
You may also consider having a relative or two join a zoom call while making Christmas tree decorations, decorating the tree, or constructing the gingerbread house. It is certainly not the same as being there in person, but it will allow everyone to share a smile and a laugh.
Also, by making a point of celebrating in advance of “the day”, you extend the joy. It is not possible to connect on “the day” with everyone, but if you carve out some special time during the season, you can almost make everyone happy.
If you are comfortable with it, another option is to really share a special moment, such as a meal, in France we would organise a “Zoom appéro” drinks as if we were in the same room sharing conversation and food. Children can present the nibbles they have prepared for the occasion; we can pull Christmas crackers together. The idea behind it is not to put the focus on the situation and rather act as we would do in person. You must not be afraid of silences; this is when the magic occurs and the family reconnects simply.
Finally, do not forget to take pictures during the calls to remember how you celebrated the holidays in 2020! Hopefully next year we will be able to give hugs and smooches!
Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday