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This year has been especially different than any year before. This is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has interrupted travel plans for millions of Americans this holiday season.
The CDC has stated “Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.” While it is safer to avoid the holiday travel plans you enjoyed in the past this doesn’t mean you have to avoid being together. Since the beginning of this pandemic most of us have attended at least one virtual meeting due to work at home or virtual social gatherings.
This may be the year for people who have been unable to travel in the past due to work, distance or budget, to be included in a virtual family gathering! If you have never planned a virtual family gathering, here are a few tips to help ensure that everyone feels engaged and connected this holiday season.
Smooth out technical issues ahead of time
Using various online platforms, it’s easy to organize a virtual family reunion to spend quality time with your loved ones. But different time zones, Internet connection speed, and device-related issues can make you stressed out instead of enjoying each other’s company.
Make sure to plan a test meeting ahead of time to iron out any camera, audio or technological compatibility issues ahead of time. If anyone’s camera or audio is not compatible you may even want to consider helping them update their technology so they can be connected to the family this holiday season.
Make sure your meeting is accessible
For the senior members of your family, being connected is more important than ever. However navigating virtual meeting technology can be a nightmare for the elderly. Many seniors have hearing issues that make it hard for them to follow virtual conversations.
To make the conversation more accessible choose a video conferencing platform that offers closed captioning features. This allows the conversation to be transcribed in real time so the people with hearing issues in your family can feel included. Many hearing aids now offer wireless Bluetooth that can connect the audio of the video conference so it is transmitted directly to their ears clearly. Technology to help family members with hearing issues, may be a very appropriate and helpful gift this holiday season.
Planning the event
Sending invitations for your virtual reunion not only can get people excited for the event but it includes a clear start and end time. This can help the meeting run smoother and stay on schedule. Some people enjoy speaking online for hours while others may tire.
Having a schedule and plan for the course of the meeting can get people feeling engaged, excited and included in the meeting. You may want to choose a theme. Perhaps it could be a costume party?! Whatever gets people excited and feeling together through this pandemic can help us all through. Try a family trivia game to test how well family members know each other.
Every family is different, so choose a game that your family can enjoy together. You could also turn your gathering into a virtual talent show. Some people can sing, others can tell stories, while others enjoy sharing dance. Another fun activity is sharing old family photos via screen sharing to help family remember cherished times of the past. Just make sure everyone is excited to be included and contribute.
Sharing gifts and food
If you have shared gifts and food together in the past this year doesn’t have to be any different, you just have to do it virtually. You can all still decide to prepare the same foods and eat them at the same time. This is a good excuse to share family recipes and see how they turn out for everyone. You could all mail each other gifts like chocolates or fashionable safety masks, and enjoy opening them up together on camera.
Sharing love from a distance
Remaining far away from one another does not mean that we cannot keep in touch with our family this holiday season. In fact, while avoiding holiday travel might feel difficult, it is an act of care for family and others. Limit the spread of COVID-19 this year and still enjoy being together with family and friends. We have to get through this together and finding different ways to express our love and care towards each other is an essential part of battling these extraordinary circumstances.