In what sometimes may feel like overnight, professionals were forced to find alternatives to traditional in-person meetings and often without the assistance of information technology personnel. Both clients and professionals were required to visit the mysterious "app store" and become fluent with modern virtual communication platforms. As a result, in only a few months, the word "Zoom" has become the modern definition of a meeting.
Communication platforms such as Zoom eliminate the challenges associated with geographic distance and provide family counselors and Collaborative child specialists new and different opportunities to nurture healing and repair relationships between children and parents. Regardless of whether you are separated due to the international pandemic, relocation, work, illness, or otherwise, the following are activities that can quickly and easily be facilitated over Zoom and range from those suited to the tech-savvy to more traditional activities that would normally take place in person.
Dr. Eric Rosen of Family Psychological Services in Palm Harbor, Florida, email@example.com, recommends the following resources to assist with fomenting bonding, facilitating recognition of common values, stimulating favorable memories, instilling fun, and improving communication:
1. Pictionary Feeling Game: The Zoom whiteboard feature allows for drawing. This Zoom activity becomes engaging, fun, and provides therapeutic content to explore. Ahead of time, generate a list of both object words on one side of the page, and feeling words on the other side. Such words can be scaled for the age, grade, and level of cognition of the child. Dividing again into easy, moderate, harder sections can make the game more stimulating. Directions are that the parent /child use the share screen on Zoom and whiteboard to draw the word, alternating between object and feeling words, and the other then gets five guesses to guess the word from the drawing.
Hints can be drawn as well. points can be issued, though not necessary. The focus is on creating compliments with one another, monitoring for any criticality. Feelings can be explored as well, connected to events, even questioning of one another to promote communication. However, with advance guidelines for parents that no provocative questions/comments are to be shared. Boundaries become another theme to work on in this venue.
2. Happy Memory Scavenger Hunt: Come up with a list of home objects that may have personal meaning to both the parent and the child as follows: person's favorite breakfast food, favorite hobby, recent most favorite holiday or birthday present received, a symbol of chore least enjoyed, favorite sport, most enjoyed song (a symbol will do), etc. Send the list in an attachment which the family prints out ahead of time. Give instructions to the parent and child, and they then have 15 minutes to find and bring items back to the computer. Ground rules include respect and no sarcasm or critical symbols. Once gathered, it is like a show and tell/exploration activity. Look for common values, bonds, and connective memories.
3. Conversation Starters: Develop a list of conversation starters in different domains from family, school, spiritual areas, etc. You can pick and choose subject areas that best fit your family dynamic or specific areas of concern. Both parent and child ask each other a question from different topics, for example:
- Personal: What is one of your favorite memories? What helps you feel better when you're stressed? When are times you feel worried? What does your perfect day look like?
- School: Who would you not want to sit by in class, and why? What was your favorite part of lunch or recess? What part of your school day to you dread? What class did you learn the most in?
The questions and answers promote exploration, bonding, familiarity, and communication without critical responses. To maximize comfort in answering, there is an option to skip the question, which in and of itself is a learning opportunity. http://wehavekids.com/parenting/Conversation-Starters-for-Teens
4. Brain Teaser for Sharp Teens and Parents: This activity can be done online and is free. It has visual puzzles, logic games, and other brain teasers. The parent and child work together to strengthen communication and boundaries, assist and guide without taking over, and explore the opportunity to cooperate and compliment during the activity. https://icebreakerideas.com/brain-teasers/
5. Emotion Card Game: Also free and online, with printable pages of feeling words, along with separate, independent instruction cards. The parent and child take turns reading a feeling card, then an instruction card asking about the feeling card they randomly selected. The instruction is to explore feelings, again keeping it non-provocative or critical, offering self-disclosure where possible. https://www.mygroupguide.com/emotionsgame/
6. Emotion Jeopardy Template: A fantastic emotion game with a template that you can use through Zoom. It has various levels of feeling words, actions, what your body does, and when and how to process the feelings. This is a good option for young kids through mid-teens. With Zoom, parents and children can bring up a template. The answers flash on the screen, and the parent and child can both give their answers. But with the press of a space bar, the computer flashes an answer to facilitate further discussion. https://jeopardylabs.com/play/understanding-feelings-emotions2
All can easily be adapted to sessions where:
- The parent and child are physically together but the therapist is distant
- The therapist is physically present with one of the participants and the other is remote
- If all three or more participants are in separate locations.
Breakout room options are perfect opportunities to process the activities with each participant separately, if necessary.
This post was written by Belinda B. Lazzara.