FAMILY FRIDAYS: A Guide for Older Adults Connecting to Young People in a Virtual World
By Megan Flød Johnson, Program Specialist
Social connection is more important than ever during the global pandemic. Though we need to be physically distant to stop the spread, we must stay socially engaged, no matter what.
A few weeks ago we wrote a post talking about some ways to liven up your video call conversations. You gave us feedback that older adults are looking for specific things to do with young people during their calls, too. We know that nothing replaces the in-person social time you shared with young people previously. This week we’re back with some fresh ideas to help you bring unexpected activities into a virtual space.
Below is an action plan for connecting and/or reconnecting deeper with the young people in your life. We hope this gets you thinking about all of the possibilities for what you can do together.
Who are my possible young person connections? Grandchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews or family friends. Consider becoming a “Big” mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters- there is an urgent need for virtual mentors during the pandemic. Learn more here.
Do I have the needed technology? You’ll need a phone, tablet or computer with a camera to connect virtually. What about a reliable wifi connection? If not, are there are resources to help get you connected. Check out Comcast’s Internet Essentials program.
How do I connect with them? For teens, start with a call or email (HINT: many young people prefer texting to email or calls and may not check their voicemail. Be persistent and you’ll connect eventually.) For younger children, get in touch with their caregivers to run the idea by them first.
What do I say? If it’s someone you have an existing relationship with it can be an informal chat and brainstorm. Try a framing like,
“Hey, do you want to connect online and come up with some things to do together?”
If this is a new connection via an organization to discuss ways to be matched with a young person for a more consistent online connection. Be prepared to complete a background check to ensure safety for the young person.
Come up with some ideas together with the young person. Ask them what they like to do for fun and how that might translate online. Do you both have a special skill you could teach each other? Include the young person in making the decision about how to spend your time together. Decide on which activity you’ll do first. Here are some ideas for any age to get you started:
Lead each other through a Stress buster to breathe together.
Draw together with colored pencils or markers.
Play a board game at the same time.
Teach each other a dance/dance move.
Move through Yoga poses together.
Cook a recipe at the same time.
Before you say goodbye, decide which activity you’ll do together next time. Think about a fun way to begin or end each virtual meet-up. Maybe you both come with a joke or two? Maybe you end by reading a favorite poem or story out loud to each other. Build them special rituals!
Schedule a regular day and time weekly to connect with your young person. It will give you both something to look forward to in your week and create consistent connection time you can count on.
Did you know that creating a consistent ritual is a tool to promote emotional resilience for young people? Rituals provide a helpful structure and a predictable routine to offer young people a sense of control. A lack of predictability can feel unsettling for children and increase risk for anxiety and worry. All great reasons to make a schedule for your virtual meet-ups and stick to it!
SteppingStone is launching streamed episodes of an original adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by teens, coming soon. Watch it together and discuss what you saw, heard, and what it made you think about. What ending would you have come up with instead?