You might be talking to the plants as you endure it alone. Or maybe you’re stuck with your own family in a small human zoo. Either way, chances are you have some close relatives who feel further away than ever right now.
Here are some ideas on how to stay in touch with family during lockdown.
Choose the right medium
Already chosen your favourite way to communicate online? Then skip this bit. If not, fear not: these solutions are really simple.
On a computer: Google Hangouts and Zoom are both great ways of keeping in touch with your family, especially in large numbers. They’re easy to download and free to use, though Zoom will kick you out after 40 minutes (you’ll just need to start a new call, or pay for a professional plan).
On the phone: WhatsApp now lets up to 12 people join the same video call, as does Google Duo. HouseParty only supports 8, but you can have a lot of fun with it. FaceTime allows 32.
All of them are really intuitive and have passed the TransferGo Grandparent Test. Just ask your family members which one they would rather use, and dive right in. You’ll master it in no time.
Make a regular date to stay in touch
Rituals are central to family life. Keep them alive by booking time into your calendar for weekly or monthly dates, and sticking to them. Our team’s favourites include:
- Bedtime stories: Whether you’re reading to younger ones, your elders, or having them read to your kids, these can be a lovely way to connect during lockdown (and give someone, somewhere five minutes’ peace).
- Dance of the Week: Okay, it can be a bit awkward when your five-year-old son chooses Baby Got Back as his song to dance to. But you’ll never forget seeing multi-generational twerking.
- Breakfast TV: Two of you get to be Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby. Everyone else gets to half-watch while they make breakfast. What better way to start your day?
- Making and baking: You can still gather around food and drink as a family—only with less washing up. Coordinate activities so you’re making the same meal, drinking the same cocktail or munching the same cookies at the same time. Just send the recipe well in advance, so everyone can get hold of the ingredients in time.
- Watching stuff: If you’re the kind of family that has Gogglebox-level banter when you watch stuff together, all is not lost. Netflix Parties lets you watch whatever’s on Netflix together, while Kast lets you share whatever’s on your screen.
What’s family without competitive screaming? Here’s what our people try to satisfy their burning need to thrash their siblings, parents and children.
- Wordswithfriends2: Best app for Scrabble. (Or just point your camera at a real Scrabble board, like our Jess does for her Dad.)
- Drawbox2: Best for drawing games. Basically online Pictionary. Insanely fun.
- Quiz Up: Best way to do a quiz together. (Or host your own using Kahoot!)
- Psych: Avoid each other’s trick answers to a question—while you try to trick them with yours!
- Bingo: Ask a child to write down hundreds of numbers on scraps of paper, fold them up and put them in a jar. And bingo! You’ve got a game of bingo. And no need for home school, which is another bingo. Download free bingo cards from My Free Bingo Cards. And see if you can stop saying bingo.
- Newspaper quizzes: If the tech scares you, just cut out a weekend newspaper quiz and be the quizmaster. If your family trusts you, you can answer the questions too. Just try not to win by too much.
Make a playlist
The millennial equivalent of a mixed tape, a playlist does the same job: it conveys care, meaning and a whole experience that the listener can now tie to you. Whether you agonise over the order or just chuck a bunch of old favourites in, it’s a thought that really does count.
Ditch the technology
When a letter or a package arrives, and you didn’t order it, and your name is handwritten… well, it’s like a mini-Christmas, isn’t it? Postcards work too. If you really want them to cry, add a squizz of your signature perfume/cooking spice. Whatever, as long as it’s done by hand—and it wasn’t in the calendar.
Remember your manners
Lockdown may have changed the game, but the rules are the same: be on time. Be present. Be kind. Accept each other’s foibles. Listen, be heard, and share.
For all the distance between us, we can still stay in touch with the ones we love, and bug, the most.