After checking in with hundreds of friends, extended family and professional acquaintances (and hundreds more thanks to social media feeds), I’m starting to hear common themes. We survived the shortages (pasta, yeast, toilet paper) and the transition to new routines (work and school from home). We indulged in the buying sprees (furniture, content streaming) and adapted to getting things done on our own (trimming hair, cleaning bathrooms). We even chipped away at that never-ending to-do list (yard work, home maintenance). In California, we’ve gotten through Week 4 — or is it now Week 5? It’s hard to remember when each week feels like more of the same.
By now we’ve heard of people in our family and friends circle who have lost loved ones, and of those who have gotten sick and recovered. We’ve each had our share of frustrations within the confines of our abode and feelings of anger and helplessness when we hear about more layoffs. We look to social media and friends to cheer us up, get helpful tips and celebrate little joys. And some of our friends are turning their attention to building new businesses and working on solutions to emerging problems.
For those who have adjusted to our new normal, and perhaps a little burned out by watching the news, friends have shared advice about how they are coping. Here’s a shortlist of their advice:
- Sharing talents with those who can benefit from them
- Being more empathetic with others
- Taking time to appreciate others
- Spreading a little hope and joy
- Consciously seeking out new ways to adapt to changes
- Focusing on being patient, building relationships and nurturing creativity
- Living with grace, cutting slack for everyone
- Empowering others, giving them a helping hand
- Playing music together. Enjoying simpler forms of entertainment that families used to enjoy before television and computers.
- Discovering previously unexplored hikes in our local town that we never had time to check out before
- Gardening — it’s meditative and therapeutic
At this moment, however, the most common theme I am hearing is “craving connection”. Kids want to hang out with their friends in the casual, spontaneous way that they used to pre-shelter-in-place. Adults miss the emotional connection that comes from being in a room with other people — to see faces and laugh together unencumbered by the frustrations that technology can bring.
We hosted a marathon video chat with extended family members who dialed in over a four hour period before Easter dinner. A little chaotic at times (with over 18 households at one point), but it was great for all of us to see everyone’s faces. In a way, it was better than having our normal big family get-togethers because we could include family members from New Jersey, Hawaii, Seattle, Los Angeles, and SF Bay Area — which probably would not have happened at any single physical gathering. For the record, I invited my family to do this well before I noticed that the Swedish royal family was doing the same.
In California, our week 4 of shelter-in-place consisted of finding new ways to connect. We got a nice bit of positive feedback on our mask-making efforts, which spurred the kids to continue. “The ICU respiratory therapists at Summit hospital were very thankful for the masks they received today. These healthcare workers are the most “at-risk” group since they manage airways.” And from our volunteer coordinator, “Since Gov. Newsom’s order of masks for CA still have not arrived or have not been distributed to state hospitals yet, we volunteers have to continue our mask-making efforts for at least another week or two.” We are on our way to producing about 50+ masks, so we’ve managed to up our production output.
Although we want to minimize screen time, setting up a device with an open video chat window with another family has created a more spontaneous way to connect and my kids did this one night with their cousins so they could continue their regular “paint night”. Online games with a video chat component can give children the social connection they crave. A local school has been using Kahoot to host “homeroom wars” (little educational quizzes played game-show style) to get students engaged and interacting first thing every morning.
Years ago I wrote a blog to share stories about how we provided our kids the enrichment they needed outside of school to nurture their interests and creativity (and to help minimize the video game time). I shared how we played games as a family to build relationships and foster positive sibling dynamics. Playing games fosters relationships when you laugh together, root for the underdog and celebrate little successes (the point of playing is not just about winning). Therefore, as a family, we are big on playing games.
In the past weeks, we’ve discovered new games that we can play in real-time with others in various locations (“synchronous” gaming) over Facetime, Google Meet or Zoom (or any other video chat software that supports both audio and video). Jackbox.tv is a family favorite (introduced to us by my oldest when he started playing this game with friends in college). We create a little more social interaction by playing the game with a video chat open so we can still enjoy the commentary and laughter that makes playing the game so much fun. The company recently created a tutorial to help fans set up Zoom calls to play the game, although any video chat with screen sharing capabilities will do. Our kids have started a chess.com tournament among their cousins. And of course, there is Roblox and Minecraft where kids can play in the same world and chat at the same time (within the game).
Playing Jackbox requires a one time purchase, but Kahoot can be played at home for free. Kahoot is used by teachers and students as a learning tool, but there is a “create your own Kahoot” mode that can get everyone in the family involved. In our case, we created trivia about each family member (which was hilarious). Our kids loved the tv show, “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?” and now all of us feel like we are reenacting the show in our living room as the kids challenge us with the Kahoot quizzes they use in school. We’re actively thinking about the categories we will create quizzes for next week (Beatles trivia or famous You-Tubers?).
Video chat can increase the social interaction when playing with others in a different location, but if you want to simplify the setup and playing games with multiple locations that DO NOT require more than one device to play, here are a few favorites that can be played over video chat WITHOUT additional devices or screens.
- Scattergories (or for younger kids, Wiz Kidz)
- Yahtzee (players in each room need to have their own sets of dice)
Of course, there are online games that people can play “asynchronously” (not at the same time) throughout their day. Games such as Boggle with Friends, Words with Friends, can be played with people you know. I’ve always resisted playing gaming apps even if it’s a way of connecting with people I know because I’ve heard how addicting they can be. Anyone who knows me is probably shocked to hear me say this, but I have found myself indulging in a few of these games in the past week. To be honest, it’s has been a little bit of a needed distraction and my approach to “self-care”.
Our favorite games that are best played in one room and perfect for multiple ages to play together:
- Code Names
- Exploding Kittens (there is a multi-player app for this game)
- T-shirt game (a recent favorite we added to our list)
If you need help setting up online games, here is an article with more detailed information. Here are a few other suggestions for games you can play with multiple players in different locations that we have not yet tried.
If you’d like to suggest a game to add to my list, please let me know. Have fun!