Modern technology has made long-distance communication easier and more personal than ever before. And in the era of COVID-19, we sure are thankful for that.
Still, a Zoom call isn’t the same as a face-to-face meeting, which is something that anyone in (or preparing to be in) an open adoption relationship feels acutely. Whether your regular in-person meeting has been disrupted or your very first meeting had to be called off, there’s a “new normal” that you’ll need to adapt to.
Video chat is a great solution, as far as substitutes for in-person meetings go. Still, as some of you already know, things won’t always be smooth right from the start. Video chats can be challenging for kids to understand or pay attention to, especially for younger children. And, honestly, they can be awkward and challenging for the adults in the room, too.
We thought we might be able to help. This guide to virtual open adoption visits has five simple, practical ways to make the most of the temporary distance we all have to keep because of COVID-19.
Ready to make your next video chat the best one yet? Let’s get started.
Tip #1: Test The Equipment
There’s probably nothing worse when it comes to video calls than spending the first 15 minutes trying to solve technical issues. It sets the mood for the whole call, creates frustration and reminds everyone of the inherent shortfalls of technology.
Put yourself in a position to avoid these unwanted outcomes by testing your equipment first. Most video software services, like Zoom and Skype, allow you to test your camera and microphone before making a call. You could also log on and call a family member or friend as a test run before starting your virtual open adoption meeting.
Tip #2: Make Your Call a Meal
Think of how it goes when you have your normal in-person meetings. You probably have some sort of activity planned. But when it comes to video calls, we often sit down with nothing to do besides talk, which can be especially challenging for younger children or any child with a shorter attention span.
Instead of simply calling to talk, try planning a Zoom dinner together. You could even coordinate on cooking the same meal and start the call while you’re both cooking. This gives everyone something to do as you talk, and it helps younger children feel a sense of connection as they understand that, even though you are apart, you’re eating together.
Tip #3: Game Night
Turn your virtual open adoption meeting into a virtual game night that the kids will love. This is a great way to make your video call more than just a conversation — it can become a memory full of laughter.
You can try simple games like charades or Pictionary that don’t require any additional technology. Or, you can use one of the many virtual game platforms that are relatively easy to use and can provide hours of entertainment. There are platforms like Jackbox Games that have a selection of games to choose from. Quick Draw is a great little game that kids can easily participate in and enjoy, as is The Game of Things.
Turning your virtual meeting into a game night is an especially good option for those of you whose children struggle to stay focused during video calls.
Tip #4: Cover Your Video
You know that little box on the screen that displays your own video back to you? Well, kids love to see themselves. In fact, they love it so much that it can be incredibly distracting. Take a sticky note and cover that corner of your screen to help your child focus on talking to their birth parents, instead of watching their own video and making silly faces.
Tip #5: Storytime
Open adoption relationships are primarily about a connection between a child and his or her biological parents. But, as most parents in an open adoption will tell you, the relationship between birth and adoptive parents can also become very meaningful. Because of this, it can be tempting to want to talk to each other the whole time.
There are times when this is appropriate. But, other times, it may be best to place an activity above conversation. Have you thought about trying storytime with your child? Yes, you won’t get to have as much enjoyable conversation. Instead, you can engage directly with your child and help them stay focused on the video call. This is also a great way for a birth mother to create memories with her child.
Pick an age appropriate book (maybe one about adoption) and settle in for storytime. Make sure to be expressive with your tone and inflection as you read — maybe even give some character voices a try!
Ask a Specialist for Help
Feeling overwhelmed by coordinating virtual open adoption visits and living up to expectations? You can always talk to your specialist. We know that the adoption journey doesn’t actually end at finalization, which is why our specialists are dedicated to providing post-placement support when it’s needed.
If you’re looking for a helpful resource to improve your open adoption communication during this challenging time, call your specialist today.