How to Stay Connected While Apart

Thanks to a historically bad flu season, surging COVID cases and cold weather, on top of caring for a child with an illness or injury, you may be limiting social interactions more than ever. Yet it is times like these that we need each other most. What to do?

While nothing can replace the comfort of a loved one’s physical presence, there are still ways to stay connected while apart. With a mix of technology, creativity and flexibility, you and your family can keep loved ones close, and germs at bay. We’re here to help.

Ways to Connect While Physically Apart

Below are a few ideas to help you and your family connect with your community when you can’t be in the same room together. These are great to do at home, in the hospital, and anywhere in between. And for more ideas on keeping relationships strong, check out “Maintaining Relationships” on the Parents/Caregiver page.

Virtual Dinner Parties

The closest thing to a traditional gathering might just be a virtual dinner party. Sure, dinner parties might sound like a lot of work. But did you know the typical family dinner is only about 20 minutes long? You don’t have to spend hours online together to still reap the benefits (unless you really want to). Instead, simply set a time, choose a time frame (ideally 60 minutes or less), and try to keep expectations clear.

The Family Dinner Project has a full guide to virtual dinners that covers all the basics, including the pros and cons of different connectivity platforms, information on how to plan and share a meal, games, conversation prompts and more. With this guide and a little planning, you can still all enjoy the magic of a meal together.

Video Chat Games

With the invention of FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and other video conferencing services, party games can be played with anyone in the world. Pictionary using a whiteboard feature, Charades, 20 Questions, Bingo, and Name That Tune are just a few examples that adapt well.

Nominate one of your friends or family members to be the “host” and run the game. Then participants can choose or be assigned to teams, gather the necessary game pieces or equipment, and log on together. You can do a regular gaming night, incorporate these into your virtual dinner party, hold a tournament, or have a gaming marathon.

Online Games and Apps

Hands holding video game controller and playing game
Many board and card games now have apps to let you play with others on your mobile devices. Classics like UNO, Risk, Yahtzee, Scrabble and Monopoly are just a few examples. Some even have a video chat feature to make it feel more like you’re playing in the same room.

For more options, there are also services and subscriptions that allow you to purchase game bundles which might appeal to a range of tastes. These are available on a wide variety of platforms – Zoom, gaming systems, mobile devices and online. Just choose whatever is available to your crew and let the competition begin.

Cards more your speed? No problem! You can also enjoy games such as Gin Rummy, Spades, Speed and Hearts. Download individual apps or check out services like Playing which allows you to play an array of games on an app or online for free. Challenge your family to a tournament and keep the fun going for days!

Movie and TV Watch Parties

You don’t have to be in the same room to share a show or film. Cue up the same feature while video chatting to enjoy the action together. Some streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, even allow users in two different places to watch a synced movie, pausing when necessary.

If different time zones or schedules make simultaneous options hard, try starting your own film club. Watch at your convenience, then set a time to discuss.

Photo Caption Contest

While not “live”, email can also be a great way to stay in touch. But rather than your typical update, why not try out a game?

Photo caption contests work great through email (or even the original snail mail!). Take turns sending images that you’ve found online and ask each person to submit a funny caption. Or take it up a notch and have everyone turn them into memes and gifs. There are a wide variety of free and paid generators available on digital devices and online. You can have everyone vote on their favorite or just enjoy a group laugh.

Pass the Story

Children's Hand WritingPass the story, or story by sentence, is another fun activity for email. Have one person begin telling a story. After they’ve written a sentence and sent it to the group, another person continues with their own. Keep going until someone writes “The End.”

When you’re doing this by email, it’s important to have an order established ahead of time to avoid confusion. You can assign each person a number or use another method like going in age order or by geographic location (East to West? West to East?).

When you’re done, you’ll have a written family story for everyone to keep and enjoy. You might even consider turning them into books which would make a great holiday gift.

As you can see, there are still ways to catch up, have fun and even see a friendly face when you can’t be together. And of course, we can’t fail to mention phone calls, video chats, text, social media, email and good old mail. Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to find a way to let others in and feel connected to the world. There are people who love and support you, even when it feels you are most alone.

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