Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a skill set for recognizing emotions within others and ourselves and aligning those emotions with our goals and ambitions. In daily life, EI dictates the course of our many human relationships, whether we’re aware of EI or not. But due to the lasting presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are still working from home and missing those personal, human connections we used to enjoy.
The concept of what’s been termed “Zoom Fatigue” is a real struggle for many parents. According to National Geographic, our brains have to do more interpretive work during digital interactions than in face-to-face interactions, leading to this feeling of enervation after video calls.
Additionally, focus is difficult to maintain because of the added layers of distraction that come with video conferencing. On the flip side, without video conferencing being so accessible, we would be totally without human interaction right now. In order to make your digital interactions feel more human, here are just a few ways that parents have been maintaining those human connections.
1: Virtual story time/play time
With kids spending most of their computer time with digital learning; it’s easy for them to only associate screen time with schooling. Finding virtual story times can be a great way to demonstrate the usefulness and ingenuity of digital interaction in a fun, engaging way. These are often available from your local public library, but Readeo.com offers quality children’s books online and interactive story time.
Another way to engage your child with a computer screen is to set up a virtual play date with their friends. Check out this guide for a long list of fun activities that are possible over video calls. Children are perhaps suffering the most right now from missing out on their social development, so as parents, we need to put in some extra work to make up for that deficit. It’s not easy, but trying these methods to see what works for your child is a great way to start.
2: Teacher appreciation week
Teacher appreciation week is coming up (May 3-7 in the States) and this is a great opportunity to teach your child about empathy and compassion. Few professions are as difficult as teaching, and that job has only been made harder by the pandemic. Why not help your child show appreciation for their favorite teachers and give them a lesson on empathy in the process?
PTO Today has some great advice about how to do something special for teachers this year without seeing them in person. Making collaborative videos, sending them arts and crafts, and buying digital gift cards are just a few of the ways we can show our appreciation for the people we care about.
3: Viewing parties
For parents feeling isolated and lacking social connection outside of work, a viewing party could be a great way to reconnect with friends. Many streaming services offer ways to watch their content with others, essentially recreating a digital theater. This can be a great way of reconnecting with friends we haven’t seen in a while or even making a weekly event of it.
This detailed overview of different options from Wired is really helpful and goes over the pros and cons of each method. Some require more advanced set-ups than others, but there are options for everyone and it could be a great way to stay in touch. Put the kids to bed, get your popcorn ready, and get ready to laugh or cry, depending on what you watch, with your favorite people.
4: Digital human bonding
There are certain behaviors that can further add to the feeling of alienation that screen-only interactions lead to. This article from Non-Profit Quarterly is a fantastic read on the subject and speaks to the power of mindfulness and EI to reintroduce a more human element into our digital conversations.
It teaches us to take moments of reflection and pause before starting a video call. Try this breathing exercise I guide to focus your attention and mood towards tranquility. That way, we are fully present and prepared for what is a typically draining moment in our day. It also provides tangible advice for removing distractions from our workspaces and focusing our attention on what is our main source of human interaction these days.
I feel it’s important to acknowledge that video calls, while feeling alienating at times, are also a major break from the isolation many are facing. Without Zoom and Skype and all the rest, we would not even have the ability to have digital learning, business meetings, or friendly get-togethers. That is why we have to learn to use the tools we have and improve our ability to emotionally connect with others through our computer screens.
I’m curious to know which strategies work for you and your family. Let me know in the comments how you’ve all been either struggling with or finding space for human interaction in this digital world.