One of the most difficult aspects of social distancing is finding new and creative ways to stay connected to friends and loved ones. Zoom and FaceTime are great tools for having "face-to-face" conversations, but they are merely delivery tools much like FedEx or the postal service delivering a package. They do not replace the contents of the package itself. Traditional socializing has always been about so much more than just seeing someone else’s face while we interact. It also meets our need to celebrate milestones up close and in person, to burn off excess energy in real time as a group, work side-by-side in achieving a common goal, and exercise our collective creativity...all needs that are difficult to meet in this challenging time of social distancing.
In other words, sometimes we need more than just video conferencing to restore our sense of connectedness. Besides, Zoom fatigue is becoming a reality for many, especially now that so many of us use it for school and work. Below are just a few suggestions for ways to jazz up your socializing while maintaining a safe distance.* Best of all, none of them require a video stream!
Outdoor BYOP Movie Night (ok, this one requires video, but not that kind of video!) - All you need is a projector and a large screen or blank outside wall to host a family-friendly screening for your friends and neighbors. Allow plenty of distance between viewers and encourage participants to bring their own drinks and popcorn.
Drive-through Birthday/Graduation Parade - Encourage friends and family to drive by your house at an appointed time in cars decorated with balloons while the “guest of honor” stands outside to greet them as they drive by. Music and individually-wrapped candy or gifts tossed out the window are optional.
Outdoor String/Percussion Ensemble Concert - Medical experts have expressed concern about singing and some types of wind-blown instruments spreading the virus across a distance to an audience, but string and percussion instruments are safer and the performers are able to wear masks too. Set up a stage in your town square, or simply gather your neighborhood musicians on your driveway for a socially-distanced performance.
Patio Talks - Invite a few friends over to your outdoor space for an in-person visit. Be sure to wear a mask, maintain your distance and don’t share food or drink with members outside your immediate household.
Outdoor Olympics - Form teams from within your own household to compete at a distance with teams from other households. Suggested events include relay races, timed obstacle course (one participant at a time), horseshoe/cornhole/croquet tournament, bike/running races, and long jump.
BYOF Bonfire - Each family brings their own hotdogs and s’mores to a bonfire. Wear masks and maintain a distance while telling stories and playing socially-distanced games like cornhole, horseshoes, frisbee or croquet.
Sidewalk Chalk Gallery Walk - Neighborhood artists create chalk masterpieces on the sidewalk or driveways. Then invite neighbors to stroll through the neighborhood on a gallery walk and leave comments of their own in chalk.
Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt - Text or email out a list of items that can be seen from outside throughout the neighborhood and set a start/stop time for finding them all. The household who finds them all first wins. Cover a wide enough area that people can easily maintain distance while searching.
Tag-Team Community Project - Put your heads together to come up with a multi-step or assembly line project that benefits your community. Then assign each step or responsibility to a different household. Each family can photo-document their efforts to create a shared sense of accomplishment with the entire group.
Outdoor Storytime - Gather outside at a distance while wearing masks to listen to a family-friendly story narrated by a natural storyteller in your group. Encourage each family to bring their own copy of the book to better view the pictures. Having the storyteller use a microphone will reduce loud talking/shouting which can contribute to spread of the disease.
Round Robin Storytelling/Play - This is similar to Outdoor Storytime, only each family takes turns acting out a scene from the story for the audience. It can be an established story or play, or each family can add to a made-up story, improv-style.
What are some ways that you are staying connected? Share your ideas in the comments!
Hopefully the Covid-19 crisis will be behind us either this year or next, but it may not be the last of its kind. Finding new ways to maintain our social fabric even in the face of a pandemic will only strengthen us as a society for generations to come.
With a little creativity and a few willing collaborators, even socializing while distancing can be easy peasy!
*You should still wear a mask and maintain a distance of 6 feet between you and members of other households during each of these outdoor activities as well as refrain from sharing food or drink with individuals that are not part of your immediate household.
Quite a few years ago, when my kids were younger, I spent a much-overdue weekend away with my three older sisters. It was the first time I had ever been away from my children, then ages 7 and 9, for more than one night. I was sure they would miss me, and I knew I would miss them, but my son responded to the news of my impending trip with this elated proclamation to his father:
“Hey Daddy, that means that we can do whatever we want all weekend, because Mommy won’t be here to boss us around!”
Alas, it’s true that we all need to take a break every now and then from doing what we’re supposed to do. That’s why we take vacations or occasionally skip the gym...why we sometimes take a “mental health day” from work, or cheat on our diets. In this case, my son thought that with his drill sergeant mom on leave, there would be no one ordering him to clean up his toys, make his bed or clear his dishes. He envisioned my time away as one long boss-free, video-game-playing, TV-watching, Lego-dumping weekend filled with Cocoa Puffs for dinner, chocolate cake for dessert and no church or teeth-brushing to cramp his style. Except he forgot his sister would be staying home with him. Here’s how he described her at the time:
It says: This is some big information. I have one sister. She is really bossy. For example, she tells me what TV shows and DVDs I can and ca'nt wach [sic] I like the great-white shark. It eats fish.
(I wonder, are those blue things fish, or a bossy sister's feet? Hmmm...)
Anyway, a little time off from the regular routine is both healthy and necessary, and summer is the ideal time for relaxing our standards and enjoying some easy, laid-back simplicity. But there is a fine line between a relaxed routine and a free-for-all that can be difficult to reverse. Just like enjoying that all-you-can-eat dessert buffet, the long-term negative effects of your binge can be minimized with just a smidgeon of advance preparation and a plan in place for easing back into the rigors of everyday life when reality resumes in the fall. Also remember that kids need a little structure in place to reassure them when they crash from that sugar rush.
Here are just a few strategies that I have found make for a smoother transition back to reality when summer ends:
So go ahead, turn on Nat King Cole and turn up the volume as you savor the sweetness of these long summer days, but just remember that you still need to brush every day if you don’t want a cavity!
With a little structure and routine over the summer, even transitioning your kids back to a school-time schedule in the fall will be easy peasy.
Did you say "Back to School"? Why yes. Yes, I did.
Now, before you start throwing rotten apples at me, just hear me out. I know, I know...the whole family is in celebration mode now that school is out for the summer. No doubt you have swim meets, ice cream socials and long, lazy mornings on the brain. The very last thing you want to focus on is that dirty, dingy backpack that was thrown into the corner on the last day of school, overflowing with crumpled papers, half-used journals, crumbling erasers and stubby, unsharpened pencils. But believe it or not, this is perfect time to get a jump on preparations for the Fall.
First, though, I want to put you out of your misery by saying "NO!" No, you do NOT need to keep all the math homework from this past year. No, you are not a bad parent if you toss out all the old reading logs, homework assignments, and agenda books without even looking at them. (Hopefully you've paid enough attention during the year to know where your child needs some extra help.) And most of all...No, you most definitely SHOULD NOT feel guilty for tossing out the majority of masterpieces created by your budding Van Gogh or Shakespeare.
The older your kids get, the easier it will become to part with all but the most labored-over or heartwarming pieces of work they produce. More is NOT better. In fact in this instance, more is actually less...less meaningful, that is. If it helps, set aside a half-hour to sit with your child and go through the papers and artwork together. Have them tell you about their experiences working on them. Ask questions about their thought process. Allow them to pick one or two favorites to keep. Then you pick one or two of your own. Then toss the rest. Yes, TOSS THEM!!! If necessary, do the tossing when your child isn't around. But please trust me on this. You will never regret it, and neither will they, mostly because neither of you will remember what you tossed a year from now. And the stuff you selected to keep just gained in value due to its rarity. Best of all, neither of you will be saddled with the burden that a HUGE bin of old papers will become if you don't make some meaningful decisions now.
Next, designate a place to store your selected keepsakes and put them away. Assign another spot for storing reusable school supplies for next year, and toss out all the worn out, broken, dirty crumbly stuff you know you won't use. Wash the backpacks and lunch boxes and put them away too. Finally, put that school supply list for next year in a safe spot or hang it on the fridge, but first cross off all the things you already have ready and waiting in your stash of supplies so you don't buy them again.
Now that you're done, go enjoy a well-deserved dip in the pool, knowing you've already got a start on another successful school year! Your friends may poo-poo your efforts, but you'll be the one laughing all the way to the pool on the last day of summer while they're fighting through the crowds at Staples trying to grab the very last yellow folder.
Valerie Sheridan is a professional organizer, wife, mother of two, and Founder/Owner of EasyPeasy Living.