Even if you know that the absolute safest thing to do right now is to practice “social distancing” or “sheltering in place” to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, this disruption of normalcy can be really tough. Your kids don’t get to see their friends at school, you’re missing meet-ups with your own pals, dinner parties are on hold, and weddings and family reunions are being postponed.
Understandably, you may feel a little disconnected right now. During this time of social distancing, though, it’s helpful for kids and parents alike to maintain connections with family and friends, says Nina Kaiser, Ph.D., a San Francisco-based psychologist. These connections can offer an “anchor at a time when routines are disrupted,” she says.
With a little creativity, or with the help of tech, here are 11 ways to help keep you stay connected with loved ones and friends during the pandemic.
Turn Your Neighborhood Into A Chalk Art Gallery
“In our neighborhood, we are planning to do a chalk art walk,” says Mikaela Walker, the managing editor of Orlando Parents Family Fun Magazine.
Everyone who wants to participate can create a chalk design in their driveway or on their sidewalks, she says. A list of all participating houses can be posted on the neighborhood Facebook group and neighbors can walk and see the chalk art at their leisure, Walker says. Her kids are planning a springtime theme with butterflies and ladybugs.
My own friend Amelia Mularz, a Los Angeles-based writer, posted a photo to her Instagram showing the adorable way kids in her neighborhood have been staying in touch.
Wine Taste With Friends
Kendall-Jackson winemaster Randy Ullom is leading virtual wine tastings online, and they come with themes like popular spring wines and pairing wine with pantry items. The schedule shows you which wines will be featured so you can plan your liquor store run or Drizly order accordingly. Consider it prep for your next wine country getaway.
Have a Virtual Dinner
While dinner parties are on pause, support a local pizza shop by ordering your favorite pizza and sending one to a friend or a family member. You could also have wine or beer delivered to your separate residences, too. Then, enjoy a slice, share a toast, and FaceTime together.
Organize A Neighborhood Treasure Hunt
Some families adorned their windows or doors with shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. But even though the holiday has come and gone, you can create these fun “community Eye Spy” types of activities with specific art projects or drawings placed in the window, Kaiser says. Maybe an upcoming Easter Egg hunt?
Many organizers are using local bulletin boards to ask people to put up different shapes (such as hearts) somewhere outside their homes for each week of this social distancing period. Kids can then go on a scavenger hunt to locate them.
Here’s an Instagram photo from Instagram user TheZellGroup, showing off their shamrocks for a neighborhood “Shamrock Hunt.”
Let your children and friends collaborate on an artistic masterpiece together!
“You can draw half of a picture, take a picture and send it to a friend and have them draw the other half,” suggests Celeste Headlee, author of “Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing and Underliving.”
Or, several apps like Doodle.ly will let you share doodles virtually.
Staying connected with friends is important for kids, because it can help them practice social skills even if they can’t engage in face-to-face connections, Kaiser says.
‘Travel’ On Google Maps
Psst, Google Maps is a gold mine when it comes to armchair travel and keeping entertained, Headlee shared with us. If your family was planning to see extended family over Spring Break, do some virtual traveling together.
Start A Remote Movie Club
Agree on a date to watch a certain movie, and when the movie is over you join each other in a video call to discuss it, suggests Viktor Sander, a counselor at SocialPro, which helps people be more socially savvy. Sharing unique experiences like this can help strengthen your friendships, he says.
Making this even easier is Netflix Party, which is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to sync up your accounts with friends and family so you can watch movies or TV shows at the same time. A group chat feature enhances the experience.
Plant A Garden And Share Its Bounty
Gardening can be a great way to bond with your family and is also proven to decrease anxiety, says Sander. Get your family together and ask everyone what they want to grow — something edible, beautiful or fun (like snapdragons!).
Once your garden starts growing, you can drop off some useful herbs or a vase of flowers at your neighbor’s doorstep, which will help connect you with the people around you that you aren’t seeing much of anymore! Add a little note if you like.
Share Your Talents
Heena Khan, a licensed professional counselor who is in yoga training, got the idea to use Zoom, an online meeting platform, to organize an online yoga class for kids. She streamed it for her kids’ schoolmates.
“It was very well-received,” she says. “I’m about to do one for the parents as well.”
Whatever your talent may be — storytelling, baking, dance choreography — you can bring your kids’ friends or your own friends together for a fun and informal online class through Zoom. Or you can make a video and post it on Facebook or YouTube for people to follow along, suggests Lynell Ross, a Certified Health and Wellness Coach and founder of Zivadream.
Here are 10 free online fitness classes you can take from home right now.
Send Homemade Cards
Help your kids create homemade cards out of unique things you have on hand, such as ribbons, buttons, colored pencils, paints and wrapping paper. Then send them to people you care about!
“Not only will you help your kids use their imagination, but your loved ones will have a keepsake to remind them of you,” Ross says.
Join a Quarantine Book Club
If you’re not already part of a book club, now may be just the time to gather up your friends and, well, get on the same page. The Quarantine Book Club lets you chat with your favorite authors online.
Do you have any more ideas for helping keep your kids connected with their family members and friends in these unprecedented times?