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Fostering Connections with Kids via Long Distance Family Video Chats
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Living far away from extended family when you have children can be a challenge. Here are some tips on how to foster a connection with family using technology

Despite the physical distances that our modern world increasingly affords, the connections we have with family and friends can continue to remain rich and meaningful through technology, both new and old; like video chats, letters, and phone calls. This can be accomplished by being intentional and purposeful in our practices of engagement, as well as by being explicit about our expectations with those that are a grand distance away, but with whom we want to stay connected.

A young child in particular, and frankly even a teenager, doesn’t want to nor has the patience to sit down and review their day with family during a video chat.

Most adults expect regular calls and traditional conversations. They also long for real connection with the children in their lives, despite this distance. These two expectations are actually in contrast with each other: a young child in particular, and frankly even a teenager, doesn’t want to nor has the patience to sit down and review their day with family during a video chat. In addition, sharing news in a reporting way does not facilitate connection. Connection is fostered with children through sharing experiences and the best way to go about that is changing the focus from the call to the child.

So how can we help foster connections via long distance family video calls? Keep reading.

Connection is fostered with children through sharing experiences. Click To Tweet

 

Photo Courtesy: Julie Birkholz

Some general guidelines for fostering connection between children and family from afar via video chat:

Focus on an Activity 

Find an activity to keep them busy and in one place for a maximum of ten minutes and that will keep them in front of the device being use for communicating across distances. This may include; setting up a face painting station on the table where the device and thus caller is situated next to the mirror so that both the child and the caller can see what is being painted and the reaction of the child as the brush tickles their nose, or the smile as they see themselves slowing emerging as a tiger.

 

Photo Courtesy – Julie Birkholz


For toddlers you may find an activity that focuses on fine motor skills such as playing with dried pasta and for older children this may be playing with Legos, or a game, or doing a craft.

Photo Courtesy – Julie Birkholz


For children that are very mobile, let them be busy! Encourage play- give them a roll of tape and let them tape up the dining room table during your call, or chalk on the sidewalk, or a roll of paper to color on the floor. This keeps them busy and allows them to come in and out of view which provides opportunities for questions from the caller.


 

Integrate Traditions 

Integrate traditions into your calls. If you normally carve a pumpkin for Halloween, carve pumpkins together, with grandparents making their own Jack-o-Lantern while the children carve theirs on the other side. Describe the way the pumpkin feels, and what you are doing, ask what the child thinks about the process.

 

Photo Courtesy – Julie Birkholz


Making Christmas cookies together is just as fun during a video chat and less the mess for family! Engage in questions about frosting or decorating the cookies, or make a gingerbread house on both sides of the line.

Another thing that can be done is making a call during dinner and setting a place for family at the table. This gives them a physical space in the minds of children despite the distance.

Be Aware of Technology-related Concerns

You need stable Internet. Whether that is on your mobile data plan or a wifi connection, you need to ensure that calls are not constantly interrupted. In addition, you need a device that is mobile – a tablet, a phone, a laptop. Demanding that a child sit in the same place and in front of an hard infrastructure such as a desktop or Apple TV is too limiting to facilitate potential connection opportunities.

Demanding that a child sit in the same place is too limiting to facilitate potential connection opportunities. Click To Tweet

Set up your chosen device at the level of the child so they can see family and so that callers can ask them questions. This may mean you need to change the position of the device through the call, or get a wifi extender so you can play in the backyard sandbox while video chatting!

Change the focus of video calls from trying to connect through traditional conversation, to setting up possible opportunities to connect through play. Click To Tweet

Change the focus of video calls from trying to connect through traditional conversation, to setting up possible opportunities to connect through play. Talk to family that a traditional call is not going to happen. Ask them for their patience and understanding.

Keep calls short! Ten minutes of a quality talk is better than an hour of chasing your child around with the tablet and trying to talk, thus increasing the likelihood of frustration among all parties.

Ten minutes of a quality talk is better than an hour of chasing your child around with the tablet and trying to talk Click To Tweet

Through a focus on possible interaction and not on the call, you can enjoy precious family moments and foster connections. A successful call will be one after which all callers can leave the video call with a big smile and a warm heart in anticipation of the next one.

Featured Photo: Image used under license from Freestock.com


Jewels Birkholz, is the founder of http://www.granddistanceparenting.com. Grand Distance Parenting is a platform for exploring how to facilitate connection between children and family from a grand distance. It serves as a place where you can find tips, suggestions, stories and images of the many ways to connect both virtually via Skype or Facetime, through social media or messaging with family but also in our offline practices – mailing cards, and building strong bonds with family and friends when we are physically together. As a mother of two young children, in multilingual, multi-national family currently living in a country that is not of her home country, she is craving that connection and closeness that family yields from afar and tries daily to integrate connection practices with her children.


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