Let’s face it: the COVID-19 crisis has utterly transformed daily life for all of us. Health professionals and policymakers have introduced the term “social distancing” to highlight the importance of maintaining safe distance from one another to help “flatten the curve,” or slow down the spread of the virus.
Some argue that the term “social distancing” is confusing, because we should want to find ways to keep social connections even while maintaining physical distance.
For kids (and adults!) staying indoors and being at home all day can cause feelings of loneliness, restlessness, and even pain. However, it’s important to remember that although many of us are currently alone in a physical sense, we can work to embrace community in other ways.
We decided it was important to provide suggestions for how to maintain a healthy sense of community in an era of quarantine.
1. Eat Together
It’s simple: communities who eat together, stay together. Among other benefits, eating in groups has been scientifically proven to strengthen relationships, improve individual mood, and boost academic performance.
We realize that every household is different, and finding shared free time can be deceptively difficult in this stay-at-home, work-from-home period. However, by taking meals together (once a day is better than none!) we can keep loneliness, fear and boredom at bay.
For those living by themselves, having a coffee or tea break or snack by FaceTime or Zoom can provide a feeling of connection. Having a regular routine of meeting up virtually with one person a day can create a structured sense of connection.
2. Revive Old Connections
Across the world, so many people are shouldering the weight of solitude. In the ferocious pace of recent years, how many friends and family members have you lost contact with? Take advantage of these quieter weeks to reach out to those who you always felt a strong connection with, but who have fallen off your regular communication chain due to distance or circumstance. A quick text message — hey!! you crossed my mind today. how are you managing? — can go a long way toward fostering community and resisting mass loneliness.
A tip: Some people might be feeling too overwhelmed to immediately respond or reciprocate. A text like “Just checking in–hope you are doing well” or “Wanted to say I am thinking of you” without expecting a quick reply is probably the most thoughtful approach.
3. Get Creative
Some people have found it more challenging to concentrate during the quarantine. The idea of finishing a screenplay or reading piles of books might not be possible. Still, there are so many ways to encourage creativity and curiosity even in quarantine! At Green Ivy, we’ve already heard some great ideas, including Club Penguin birthday parties, family embroidery sessions, and painting workshops via video-chat. Daily drawing classes online can provide inspiration, and for those of us who have always wanted to learn a new language, apps like Duolingo can provide a fun sense of accountability!
4. Moderate Screen Time
While cooped up in the home, it can be tough to resist the constant temptation of screens. If we live with others, it’s important not to let technology keep us estranged from those we share our homes with! Schedule screen-free blocks of time throughout the day to do a hands-on group activity (such as cooking or gardening), exercise, play board games, or work on a collaborative art project.
At the same time, interpersonal screen experiences can be energizing. Chatting on FaceTime with friends can feel far more meaningful than mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, and hearing someone’s voice can provide more lasting fulfillment than sporadically sharing Tweets. Remember: all things in moderation. Proactively identify signs of feeling drained or overwhelmed, and put self-barriers in place if you need to.
5. Reach Out to Elderly Loved Ones
Senior citizens are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Find ways to create and maintain connection with your loved ones – one parent had her 75-year-old father lead video discussions of historical events with his teenage grandkids who were studying American history. You could also write letters and then read them over video, check in via Facetime, or drop off groceries on their doorstep (while maintaining social distance). There are countless ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety felt by many of our communities’ older members.
What strategies have worked well for you and your family? We’d love to hear!