Finding social connection while physically distancing

In times of physical distancing, everyone seems to be looking for ways to connect socially. From Zoom happy hours to birthday parades, we’re all adapting.


Trying new things

For E, it’s been hard looking out the window and seeing the neighbors that she typically plays with and not being able to join them. Early on, we allowed bike riding with neighbors, but with time, we’ve cut back. There have been a few times when we’ve run into them while walking our dog and the girls end up riding around the block. This small amount of contact with her friends does wonders, but it doesn’t happen very often anymore.

Most of her socialization in the past two weeks has come from Minecraft. She didn’t play video games before this but her friend down the street invited her to play and it has become their social hour. They talk to each other as they work on building tree houses and hiding spots out of virtual chunks of stone and wood. It’s the closest thing to building the pretend houses they used to build when they had in-person playdates.

Another thing we’ve done is play bingo with my family in Colombia. I use a bingo card generator, which gives you bingo cards and the ability to call the numbers on their site. During the Zoom call, I share my screen so they see the numbers as I’m calling them. It’s been a hit and we’ve been playing once to twice per week, but E usually plays a couple of rounds and is then off to do something else.

And then there is FaceTime. We’ve been using it a lot more than before with my parents, who also live in Houston, and with family in Colombia. An added bonus has been that all of her conversations with them are in Spanish at a time when she’s missing on the Spanish input she would get in school. None of these options replace face-to-face interactions, of course, but it’s what we have to work with for now.


Strange but necessary

We are still finding our space in distance connections. The one-on-one interactions we’ve had with family and friends tend to go better since the interaction allows for plenty of two-way input. I have a tiny extended family, so now that we’re home, we speak on the phone daily. Z is a part of these conversations, she pops in from time to time to say hi. It works because I let her come in and out as she pleases. As time goes by, we will have to get more intentional with these interactions. Our family conversations are our primary source of Spanish input, and they continue to be crucial as Z develops her language skills.

We used to be a low-tech house, opting into more hands-on experiences. Now, Z has a Chrome book and uses it for at least two hours every single day. This is undoubtedly weird but necessary as there is no other way to reach out to the world outside. A few weeks ago, we video called one of Zoe’s preschool friends for a chat. The call turned into an almost two-hour-long drawing session where they were telling each other what to sketch and then comparing their works. In between they would talk about their life: school, friends, what they ate, their favorite movies, everything. It was a moment of peace for everyone involved. As parents, we were so happy to see our kids at ease and engaged without much adult intervention. That was the first and last time a virtual connection went smoothly, but we’re hoping for more.