For many of us, this year’s holidays will be different than winter celebrations of the past. Millions of Americans who have traveled via plane car and train to be reunited with family and friends for the holidays are choosing to stay at home this year due to the CDC’s recommendation which aims to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year staying at home may be the safest choice to protect the people you care for this year but just because you are sheltering in place does not mean that you have to forego your holiday traditions all together. Most of us have learned to navigate virtual meetings this year due to work from home or virtual social gatherings, which have risen in popularity due to the 2020 pandemic.
This holiday, enjoy your traditions and connection to family from the safety of your home computer. Here are a few tips to help make your virtual family reunion run smooth so you can focus on the spirit of being together this holiday season.
Work out technical issues ahead of time
For those already familiar with virtual meetings, you already know that there is nothing more frustrating than logging online just to spend the meeting working out technical difficulties. Some people will be more inclined to figure out technology while others may struggle due to advanced age or the availability of compatible technology.
Schedule a test meeting at least a week before the gathering, which gives everyone a chance to log on and make sure that their microphone and camera are able to function properly. For those who do not have the proper technology this may be an excuse to help them get up to date with an early holiday gift. This can allow them to properly participate with the family.
Make sure the meeting is accessible
Virtual meetings can be particularly difficult for the elder members of the family, but this is no excuse to leave them out. In fact seniors are suffering through this pandemic as social interaction is essential to the mental and physical health of seniors. While we can’t meet in person, a virtual meeting can help the cherished seniors in your life feel connected.
For senior members who struggle with logging on and navigating the technology consider gaining access to their computer remotely using programs like Any Desk. This way you can log on to the screen and turn on the camera and audio remotely so your senior family members can participate.
Virtual meetings for the hearing-impaired
One third of seniors over 65 struggle with hearing issues which can make it difficult for them to keep up with multiple speakers during a family gathering.
Most video conferencing platforms offer talk to text real time captioning to help hearing-impaired members of the family. In addition to captioning, suggest to the hearing impaired to try using headphones to receive a clearer audio. For hearing aid users, often these devices offer wireless streaming options via Bluetooth which can send the video conference audio directly to your hearing aids, to help stay connected and involved in the conversation.
Make sure everyone feels included
Once you’ve got everyone logged in and everyone’s technology is working fine what exactly do you do? In the past there may have been a loose schedule that centered on food, small talk and gift giving. This structure doesn’t translate as well into a virtual reunion, as many quiet members of the family may feel reluctant to speak up in a group setting.
You can still open gifts and share food over the camera but this year is exciting because it is a chance for us to be creative in how we spend our time. Make sure everyone has a chance to stay engaged and feel included. You could plan games, share family photos, choose a theme, sing songs or go around sharing intentions for the upcoming year.
2020 has been an unexpected and difficult year for most of us, but it is important to remember to be grateful for what we do have. Let your family know that you are grateful for them taking the time to meet, for health and the things that make you all feel safe and connected. While many of us cannot be in proximity we can still connect and celebrate this holiday season, basking in the warmth of family and togetherness virtually.