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How to Connect to Your Family When You Have to Be Isolated

Multi-generation family taking a selfie on digital tablet in living room at home

“The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.” (Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat)

Whether it’s Coronavirus or bad weather keeping you inside, isolation can be draining.

Wishing for something to do?

Well, we’ll skip Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2. No one needs that mess—although his quick cleaner-upper was pretty incredible.  (Apparently in the 2003 live-action movie, they called it the “Dynamic Industrial Renovating Tractormajigger.” D.I.R.T. for short.)

Yes, let’s keep the dirt outside.

But what if there were some easy, fun ways of keeping connected to your family and friends without risking a damp head or illness?

Here are some ideas.

1. Marco Polo


If you just got a mental image of roaming around the house with your eyes closed, yelling, “Marco,” that could be fun. If you have someone else in the house to play with you.

But we’re talking about something different here.

This Marco Polo is video texting.

  • You can send a video to one person or a whole group.
  • And they can watch it immediately, as you’re sending it (in real time)—OR hours later, whenever they’re available. (No worries about interrupting naps.)
  • Best yet, it’s free!

Most people use it on a smart phone or tablet, but there are even ways to use Marco Polo on your computer.

So use it send your family a quick verbal hello. Show them the latest puzzle you completed. Tell them a story with all your great facial expressions. Sing Happy Birthday to a friend.

Or challenge your grandkids to a dance off. —They choose the song for you; you choose the song for them. Record yourselves dancing with Marco Polo and send it to each other. It gives you all a reason to move—and laugh.

I see a variety show coming on!

Not having a great hair day? That’s okay. You can even use actual text on Marco Polo. Or flip out of selfie mode to the back of your phone and aim it at the dog while you talk. (He’s probably doing something cute, anyway.)

There’s no time limit on the recording, no “maximum file limit,” so you won’t be struggling with emails that won’t send. And recordings stay until you delete them. Meaning you can watch them over and over again. (Great for those “Did you see what my grandbaby can do?” moments!)

Believe me, this app is great for keeping family and friends connected throughout the day no matter how far apart you are—even in opposite time zones.

 

2. Loom

Video texting is great, but sometimes you want your hands free to do other things. Like teach your grandkids a new magic trick.

That’s where Loom comes in. It’s video recording right from your computer.

AND you can choose whether to video just yourself, just your computer screen, or both. Either way, the audio works. (It’s my new favorite toy.)

  • Record lessons on
    • how to cross stitch or knit
    • how to whistle
    • how to draw an elephant
    • how to braid
  • Read a book to them. Show them the pictures. Better yet, act it out. Or recite a poem. (I can still remember my grandma recounting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” her eyes twinkling in the telling.)
  • Or, if your computer is doing something wacko, video your screen and send it to your geeky son-in-law to show him exactly what it’s doing. He could even use Loom to record the easy fix and send the video back to you.

It’s all capturable on Loom.

One of my favorite childhood memories was listening to vinyl records of my grandpa’s singing and talking. I loved his voice on those records.

So why not use Loom to make special recordings for your kids and grandkids.

Afraid you’ll get all tongue-twistery? You can always re-record. And even watch it back before sending it.

Again, no worries about too big of a file to attach. Loom will give you a link to share, and anyone with the link can view it.

There is a paid Pro version, but you can also use the regular version for Free!

Who knows—since your link can even be shared on social media, maybe your video will go viral!

 

3. Secret Coded Emails

Maybe you’re more old school. Or your daughter just called you frantic because her kids need something—anything—to do.

Write them a note. But then convert it to code.

  • Switch each letter to the one that comes before or after it in the alphabet.
  • For short messages or young grandchildren, change letters to shapes.
  • For older children, choose a favorite book that they love you to read to them. Tell them a page number in it and give a special hint for one of the words. [line 5, fifth word, 2nd letter] Make that letter equal A, the next letter of the alphabet equal B

So if the word is “bunny,” using the second letter,

  • “u” would stand for “a”
  • “v” would stand for “b”
  • “x” would stand for “c”
  • Make one of those math problem worksheets where each answer equals a letter

Attach it to an email, take a picture of it with Marco Polo, or snail mail it. Any way works. You could even challenge them to use the same code to send you a secret message back.

Of course, if you want to really keep them busy, don’t give them the cipher. Make them figure it out. (Your daughter will LOVE you! Or maybe not…)

 

4. Stories that Will Last Their Lifetime

While you may have to be apart for a while, that doesn’t mean you can’t share your life with them. Use this time to record your own stories.

Have them Marco Polo or email you one question a day about something you did in your past:

  • A time when you were embarrassed
  • A time when you laughed till you cried
  • A time when you were scared
  • A time when your school closed for an “act of God” (snow, cold, illness, earthquake…)

Your stories are important. So if you want them to be heard beyond your family, record them on your phone with the StoryCorps app. They’ll be uploaded to the Library of Congress where everyone can enjoy them.

And again, it’s free!

Okay with spending a little? Storyworth actually publishes your memories into a beautiful written keepsake.

  • The company emails you a question a week, something your family probably never asked you.
  • You reply with a story.
  • Your story is shared weekly with your kids and grandkids, no matter how many you have. You just tell them who you want to receive them.
  • At the end of the year, all those stories are bound together in a book, up to 480 pages.

Your family can even order extra books if one isn’t enough.

 

Making Seclusion Not Feel So Isolating

Time spent with family is priceless. But when you can’t be in the same room?

The next best thing is being able to connect some other way. And, with all this cool technology, we have some great options!

Why not try one of the ones above and let us know how it goes on Frontida’s Facebook page. Have another idea? Let us know that, too.


Guest post written by Elizabeth Daghfal

Elizabeth Daghfal

Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it—except for the fifteen months of winter. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry.

When she isn’t teaching or writing—who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she’s ALWAYS teaching and writing. But she also loves reading, singing, creating art, and just trying to stay ahead of the stories and research in her head. Read more about her at elizabethdaghfal.com.


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