When isolated at home, it’s important to stay in touch with those who matter most to us. For anyone stuck in the house, without regular communication between loved ones, it’s easy for loneliness to settle in. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to stay in touch with relatives, thanks to an abundance of technological advancements. To help you in your efforts, we have put together this collection of top tips for staying in touch with relatives. From seeing each other’s faces on a video call to sharing photos of daily events, there are lots of excellent options available.
While you may not be able to see your family in person, that doesn’t mean you can’t speak to them face to face. If you would like to change things up from a simple phone call and actually see who you are talking to, try giving a video call a go. This can be achieved through most modern phones, utilising apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to project your loved one’s face to your screen. You can even use your computer or tablet if you prefer, with Skype being another excellent option. Being able to see the face of loved ones during times of isolation can be a big boost so this an option that should certainly be considered.
Leanne, from the midlife lifestyle blog Cresting the Hill, told us that video calls are her favourite method of staying in touch with loved ones: “We rarely use the telephone to speak to our adult children and grandchildren. With all the free video apps available these days, we prefer to message, send pictures, and video chat via Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, and we’ve even tried out Zoom.
“Because our granddaughters are so young (3yrs and 18 months), they aren’t great at chatting on the phone, so using video calls means they can show us what they’ve been doing, display a favourite toy, or sing us songs - and we are still recognizable people in their lives (something that’s very important during the months we’re not able to visit them in person while we’re all isolating at home).”
Leanne added that it’s important not to be afraid of new technology: “I showed my mum how to use Facebook video calling recently and she was excitedly calling me the next day to try it out. It was such a buzz for her to be able to talk to me from her armchair as if I was in the room with her.”
Michelle, from the over 50s lifestyle blog Fifty & Fab, also utilises regular video calls. Speaking to us about how she is communicating with family during the current period of isolation, she said: “I make sure I phone my dad most days but during this difficult time of needing to stay home we have a family chat via a video app every day at 4 pm. It is fun because we know at that time, we can all grab a cuppa, sit in the garden if we are lucky, and check in on each other.”
Sometimes it’s nice to engage in a conversation with more than one family member. Fortunately, this can be achieved through a group text or group instant message. Your phone’s text function or instant message app of your choice will likely have this option, allowing you to message numerous members of your family at once. This is great for discussing family news, talking about a TV show, or for sharing fun anecdotes about your day. It also saves you from having to type out the same message multiple times to different relatives. Try creating one, or asking a loved one to set it up, it might prove to be a useful conversational method for you and your family.
Michelle from Fifty & Fab shared with us a great idea for staying in touch with relatives that she is using herself. It involves putting together a ‘pub quiz’ but doing it from home via the use of video chat: “We are now having a virtual ‘pub quiz’ evening every Friday. One of the eight grandchildren are taking it in turns to set the questions and we grab wine and nibbles, and all get online to compete in family groups. My older parents love to see their grandchildren laughing and even though they can’t always keep up with the technology they enjoy just being able to join in.”
Glen, from the lifestyle blog Well Eye Never, agrees that virtual pub quizzes are a great idea and shares the following advice: “If you don't have family members or friends to do that with, there are many social options online. Dr Amy Kavanagh on Twitter, for example, has set up The Staying Inn for the disabled community, where they hold quizzes, bingo, book clubs, craft sessions, etc over Zoom.”
Book clubs and film clubs are a truly fun way to stay in touch with family when being with each other in person is not an option. Among your family, you could all decided to read a particular book or watch the same film and then reconvene over the phone or video chat to discuss your thoughts. If you all decide a book is the way to go, you can arrange to chat every handful of chapters and share theories and predictions for what might come next. This will provide not only a fun thing to do but a new topic of conversation that all can enjoy.
You know what they say, a picture says a thousand words, so why not stay in touch with relatives by sending photos now and then? Or better yet, a video! Whether you spotted a beautiful scene on your daily walk or want to share something cute your dog is doing, capture it on photo or video via your mobile and send it to relatives. This is a nice way to feel close to family without having to engage in a proper conversation, letting them know that you are thinking about them. Hopefully, relatives will start sending you some photos as well, from pictures of grandchildren to whatever else.
Leanne from Cresting the Hill told us she utilises photos and video with her family: “While we can’t spend time close together, and while we are all staying home, the internet and the resources it provides are a godsend. We take full advantage of them almost daily sending pictures and receiving little video snippets – it helps us feel close and connected to our children and grandchildren while visiting them is off-limits.”
Glen from Well Eye Never has found that the ability to share photos and videos on apps like Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, is a big benefit, sharing with us: “I like the fact that you can exchange photos, video clips and links via those apps, to share things you've bought or created, or to pass on anything funny that you've found.
“It all helps to enhance the conversation and make it more interesting. Even if you're not able to chat with someone in real-time, just sending a short message, a nice picture or a funny video can make a big difference to their mental health. It will help to cheer them up and will also reassure them that they're not alone and haven't been forgotten.”
A fun option is to actually play some games together. You don’t need to be in the same room together, with the internet bridging the gap in a multitude of brilliant games. A great option that many enjoy are word games like Scrabble, simple to play and can be enjoyed on the laptop or mobile. An alternative to scrabble but in the same vein is Words with Friends (available via the Apple Store and Google Play), allowing you to compete against your loved ones to create words with Scrabble-like tiles. Games like this are not only a fun way to pass the time but a lovely way to enjoy the company of others even when you are not together in person.
Netflix is one of the most popular entertainment platforms available, with so many of us enjoying its massive library of films and TV shows to stream online. If you are a Netflix user or think you might benefit from it, there is a fun way to experience it with loved ones. There is a Google Chrome extension called Netflix Party, that, once installed will allow you to connect with a chosen person to watch along together – there’s even a chat feature so you can talk while you watch!
Glen from Well Eye Never is a fan of this option: “Another idea is to have a watch party, where you and others watch the same film or TV show at the same time, reacting to it together and discussing it afterwards. The Netflix Party extension for the Google Chrome browser is a good way of doing this.”
Tech publication Wired is a fan and they have shared a great breakdown of what you need to do to get this working: “This Google Chrome extension requires both parties to be using Chrome on desktop, but it works pretty well. First up, you and your binge-watching pals will need to install the extension. Head to Netflix, queue up an episode or a movie, and click the little NP icon in your extension bar. It'll spit out a link that you can send to your friends. Everyone will watch the episode together, synced up, and there's a built-in chat interface.”
Alternatively, if there is a Netflix show/film or piece of content on regular TV that you and a family member both enjoy, you can simply arrange to watch it at the same time and call or video chat as it plays, giving you that sense of being on the same sofa together. This is also a great option for relatives who miss heading to the cinema together.
Hopefully, some of the above suggestions will prove useful for you and your family. Pick a couple and give them a go, you will soon have numerous ways to communicate and feel closer during any period of isolation.
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