As expats, we are no stranger to the digital age. Normalizing technology into our everyday way of life is typical.
FaceTime dates. Skype calls. Utilizing video chats through WhatsApp. It's the common way of communication for those of us who live abroad.
I might call someone on the fly to ask a simple question, but taking the time to sit down and have a proper face-to-face chat through the phone is normal when your loved ones live in Timbuktu.
It's entertaining to watch the rest of the world set up Zoom calls for family game night, Sunday school class, or a catch-up with little friends. Everyone else seems fascinated by the virtual world of communication. Even predators and scammers are catching on to the digital ways.
I realize it's depressing to not see your Aunt Susie in person when you are used to making potato salad with her every other Sunday for family get-togethers. I get that; I truly do. That was my childhood.
But this. This way of communicating through virtual video conferencing is a way of life for our family and many others.
Nowadays, you may call up Aunt Susie to "see" her over video chat. This is how our kids maintain and grow a relationship with their grandparents. If not, they wouldn't know them the next time we visited. Family members would be complete strangers to them.
The other day, my mother-in-law read a book to the kids before bed over a WhatsApp video call. They will call their cousins to showcase their latest drawing or newly discovered way to make a fart noise. They will discuss cartoons and superheroes, and run around the house with the phone in hand like they were side by side in person.
"It's heartbreaking but incredibly cute at the same time. Bittersweet indeed."
I've had wine night catch ups with high school girlfriends and "in person" prayer dates with college friends. We also set up a family hello to dear friends from college the other day to banter about the current madness we are all experiencing. They said they didn't realize how easy it was for us to connect like that. Mind-blown, you guys. Only because that is our normal.
If we don't live like this, then we would literally never "see" anyone for an entire year...maybe longer. It shatters my soul to think only decades ago families left grandparents and best friends behind not knowing the next time they would see them.
"The virtual world makes living away from loved ones much easier to deal with."
Because of time zones, we have to be strategic about it though. Dinner time for us is the lunch hour for folks back home. When we were living in Asia, it was a 12 hour swing making it much more challenging. 9am at grandma's house in the States was 9pm in Singapore. Syncing up time frames for the kids to have interaction was incredibly hard.
Weekends are generally the golden timeframe to catch up. Work, school, hobbies, evening activities and commitments make it challenging to line up schedules during the week. But this current crisis has made it easier than ever to call whenever. Calendars are wiped clean. Commitments have been cancelled. Most people have nothing but time at the moment.
"And for us, on this side of the world, it's glorious!"
Can I encourage you to keep using video calls? Introduce your children to it if you haven't already. Even if you don't believe in much screen time, this is the way of the future. Your son or daughter might be expected to have face-to-face chats with a co-worker in Peru one day.
-What To Focus On-
Teach them manners
Why body language is important
Where to look into the camera
Be aware of their background
Not run or spin while talking
Turn off the TV or any other distraction while on the call
How to focus and ask interesting questions
Are they talking too loud or not loud enough
It's a fabulous learning tool for the next generation, and will hopefully steer them away from this out-of-touch texting way of life!
Losing steam? 8 Creative Ways to Survive Quarantine
In a previous life, I used to teach public speaking to 8th graders. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for kids to learn the art of communication. Involve them in planning and prepping a virtual play date. What time is best? What should they wear? Talk about? Things to do and not do on the call? And how to know when it's time to say goodbye.
And while you are at it, schedule that virtual dinner date with your bff. If you've been jonesing for your weekly catch ups, then make it fun over FaceTime. Whip up some fettuccine alfredo, swirl together your favorite cocktail, and prop up that phone for some visible laughs.
"It's a beautiful way to stay connected and fully present during these challenging times."
Want more tips on how to prepare for life abroad?
Are you living abroad and stuck in quarantine? Whether self-prescribed or government mandated, it can make you looney after awhile...especially with kids in the house. The current situation around the globe has kept us at home, here in Germany.
It goes deeper for us, though, because we've had to make the unfortunate decision to cancel our annual trip back to the States. Yes...annual trip. This means, once a year I get to see my family and childhood friends. My heart is broken.
Living abroad is tough enough when you miss out on birthdays, weddings, weekend getaways, Christmas, and special family gatherings. Going home takes on a drastically different meaning when you only get those warm hugs and traditional meals once a year.
My eldest was going to wake up celebrating his sixth birthday surrounded by grandparents and be cherished on his special day. Now, that won't happen. I've had to cancel and reschedule various dinners and get-togethers for that same trip. Although, I know many others are in worse off situations than myself.
Forget cancelling vacations and work meetings...
One girl can't make it back to Australia for her father's funeral, because they've closed borders. Another has to postpone her wedding in Cali, because her family in Greece is banned from entering the US. Another friend had her mom flying in for the birth of her baby, but now her mom's flight is canceled because of border closures within the EU.
Corona Virus (COVID-19) has impacted everyone around the globe in some form or fashion. But if you are living abroad and quarantined with your children, I've listed a few creative ways to pass time. Umm hello...our schools in Bavaria have locked their doors for three weeks + the two weeks following for Easter break. Therefore, our kiddos will be home for five weeks! We will be doing all.the.things.
8 Creative Ways to Entertain Your Kids Abroad
1. Make a paper chain garland - If this quarantine has forced you to alter possibilities of seeing loved ones, then make a paper, chain garland to count down the days until they see: nana, grandpa, fav cousin, witty aunt, fun uncle, whoever your kids are whining to see.
2. Teach them to read/write in your native langauge- If you have kindergarten aged kiddos, this is perfect. If you and your partner grew up in different countries and you are raising your kids in another, this is a future gift for them.
Ex.) Mom grew up in France. Dad was born in Germany. Kids are being raised in China. If they are going to international school, English will also be tossed in there. But giving them the gift to communicate with grandparents is priceless! Show them their French and German roots. I've seen too many times where kids can't talk to their elderly relatives, and it's so sad.
3. Watch movies/cartoons or listen to music in that specific language- While you have your kids' attention, broaden their minds and expose them to more media outlets. It will make learning new language phrases more fun than textbook lessons.
4. Order books about their current country- ...and read, read, read. If they are older, teach them about the history and significance of where they are living. If your child is into fashion, go that route. Music? Sports? Dig up info on those topics. It's an amazing experience for them to live abroad; most kids aren't giving the opportunity. Plant the seed of appreciation now. Younger kids would enjoy learning about local wildlife through picture books.
5. Research native cuisine- Look at options online together. Have them choose a dish. Make a list of ingredients and go shopping together. Chances are, it's ingredients you might not already have in your pantry, and it would be fascinating to discover new words, products, and produce together. Get home and cook it as a team.
6. Write letters to friends in previous countries- If your kids have grown up in more than one country- chances are, they miss their old pals more than you know. Look at old pictures together, tell stories, even set up FaceTime chats. But sit down and write an old-fashioned letter. If they are itty bitty- have them draw a picture, go crazy with stickers, trace their little hands, cover it in stamps, and send it off with love. Their mommas and daddies will appreciate the thought during this time as well.
7. Hike around famous landmarks - When you are supposed to be practicing social distancing, hiking in the fresh air is one of the safest yet most wonderful activities to do. Exercise, sunshine, and cleaning out the lungs? Oh yes! Sneak in a little education unbeknownst to them, and...huge win for you.
8. If all else fails... FaceTime for the WIN! Anyone and everyone you've been meaning to catch up with...now is the time 🙂
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