Everything seems to have changed in the midst of globalization and technology. Gone are the 9 to 5 working hours in the office, and the family gathering around the table for dinner. Nowadays, work can mean just being at home in front of a computer in the room next to the children, or being halfway around the globe.
Fortunately, technology has also come a long way. Whether it is seeing photos of a recent family get-together or being able to hold video chats, it is certainly a very welcome gift for families who must cope with being apart.
However, video calls, as ideal as they are, do not always turn out the way most parents want them to. It is hard enough to build a relationship with our children when we live under the same roof, how much more when it is through a screen? I think it is important that families who are often apart learn to make the most out of these video calls.
A video call can connect families but it cannot create a relationship. Creating a bond relies on the parent and how he/she can successfully engage a child.
Here are a few tips which can help make those calls more special and meaningful.
1) Manage expectations.
It is painful for any parent to see a child holding back, but perhaps remembering that it is also difficult for any child to be away from a parent will make it easier to understand the awkward silences and pauses.
2) Try to create a routine.
It is always easier and simpler for everyone when there is a routine to follow. Knowing when the calls will come will allow a sense of normalcy to set in and allow the child to build on this foundation.
If consistency is difficult to achieve due to different schedules, perhaps both parties can create videos that they can send and view at specific times of the day.
The child can create short videos telling the parent how the day went. It doesn’t have to be a 30-minute narration; even a simple goodnight is enough.
3) Be specific.
Whether talking to a child online or in person, there is one thing all parents need to do: Be specific. Ask about details that you know about: “How was your test?” “How is so-and-so?” “Is she still teasing you?”
If you don’t have much information, ask what made the child feel good that day or what he/she is looking forward to doing that weekend.
4) Have props.
Once in a while, have some props on hand to show your child exactly what you mean. Photos on your phone that you describe will be much more interesting than photos with one-line captions on social media.
5) Initiate shared activities.
Bonding isn’t always in the deep and meaningful conversations. It can also come in things families do together. There is an app called Quality Time Lab that allows a parent and a child to play chess, have a tea party or read a story, among others.
Cook or create together
If you have time and space, you can cook your favorite dish in front of your child or create an art project at the same time and compare the results after.
You can even try to exchange and send it to one another so you can keep each other’s works.
6) Be genuinely interested.
Just because you are not physically in front of your child doesn’t mean that he/she cannot sense when you are thinking of something else. If this is the only time you can spend with one another, invest yourself fully.
7) Stay positive.
There is no reason to relate in a heavy and intimidating manner when you are both online. Try to refrain from being overly harsh and jumping to conclusions. Being firm while staying positive will (hopefully) get your message across without scaring off your child.
If the video call didn’t go as planned, this isn’t the last one. There is always tomorrow and the day after. Stay committed and positive that all will turn out well for your relationship despite the difficulties or circumstances.
In the end, if all goes well, your child will see and eventually appreciate your efforts.