Use Relationship-Centered Storytelling to Nurture Strong Relationships with Children at a Distance

Use Relationship-Centered Storytelling to Nurture Strong Relationships with Children at a Distance by Kerry Byrne

(Repurposed with permission from The Long Distance Grandparent blog)

When my grandmother Pat was diagnosed with cancer and given months to live, she decided she was going to get her ears pierced. I was 13 at the time and my mother and I took her to the shopping center in the rural town we had recently moved back to because my mom ( a single mom to 3 kids no less) was her primary caregiver.

We shared a lot of moments in those last few months but this one stands out because my grandmother was in a wheelchair by then and she felt uncomfortable about it.

I remember her feeling this way.

But it’s also memorable because she shared some rather strong language when that gun actually pierced her 65-year-old ears!

Truth be told, our family – sometimes to a fault, relies on comic relief to cope with challenging situations.

This coping mechanism is part of me, my history, my sense of belonging – and the resulting stories are also a part of me.

The memory of taking my grandmother to have her ears pierced and how she shocked and made the person who was holding that piercing gun – and anyone in ear shot – laugh.

These stories matter.

And while our family collectively shares this story from time to time, I believe there are moments when you need to be the one capturing these moments along the way.

Why capture special moments from your perspective?

Yes, the parents might take photos of you together, but then the photos are on their phone, not yours. They might tell them stories about you together, but it will be the parent’s memory of it, not yours.

I want you to preserve your relationship with your little one at a distance. 

If you are going to work this hard to nurture a strong relationship with young children in your family, I want you to capture it for them.

If you are reading this, I’m going to assume you are a grandparent/grand-aunt/uncle (or parent) who knows that nurturing strong bonds from a distance requires extra work and effort.

In my membership for long distance grandparents and webinars, I teach grandparents how to plan, partner, prepare, play and preserve for connection. These are the 5 pillars of the framework I developed based on evidence from multiple disciplines – and through my own research interviews with long distance grandparents and parents.

And while I share a lot of ways to prepare and play, preserving for connection is just as important to nurturing meaningful relationships.

There are so many ways you can preserve stories about your relationship

How to create relationship- centered storytelling?

There are two steps to create a beautiful family centered story for your little one:

Step 1: Get in the photos: One of the easiest to start with is using photos you take of your moments together to tell a story. Instead of only taking pictures of them, be sure to get in the photos with them. Whether you take a silly face selfie with them, a photo of you reading stories together or screenshots of celebrating their 21st birthday together on Zoom. Taking photos of you together is an important way to preserve your relationship.

Step 2: Use the photos in step 1 to create a postcard or a photo book. Alongside the photo, share a short story about the moment you captured.These moments, whether in-person or on a video chat – are your relationship. This is where relationship-centered storytelling comes in. Point out the colors in the photo, a smell that was present, a noise in the background and of course, tell them how you felt in that moment.

Concluding Thoughts

Storytelling experts tell us that using lots of sensory details helps children remember.

Put your relationship at the center of stories you preserve and share these gifts with your little ones at a distance. 

I hope you will tell them lots of stories – and I’ll share more ways to do this as I learn more.

But let’s start with the stories only you can tell: The experience of those grand moments you are creating together.

Happy Connecting!

About Kerry

Kerry Byrne holds a PhD, and although she originally started out wanting to be a child psychologist, she became a research scientist in the area of aging and care. For over 20 years, she has published, presented and collaborated on numerous projects and initiatives to improve the experience of aging. She believes in the power of intergenerational relationships within families to create a more caring and less ageist society. Kerry is the Founder of The Long Distance Grandparent, a mission-driven business helping grandparents build strong bonds with their grandchildren from a distance.

Try Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations.  To try Peekabond go here.

8 Benefits of Storytelling for Young Children by Alyea Sandovar

Why is Storytelling Important for Young Children?

Storytelling is an important piece of child development. Used consistently throughout schooling and education, storytelling helps to engage children and open their minds to all manner of possibilities. As well as encouraging creative thoughts, storytelling can be used as a vehicle for teaching values. 

With a strong presence throughout history, there is evidence that every culture we know tells stories. They shape our identity, bond communities, teach lessons and help us remember things that should never be forgotten. Before children can read or write, they are told stories. 

Bonds are formed between storytellers and their audiences. Sitting down with your little one to read them a story can create long lasting memories for both of you. The stories grow more complex as your little one develops, expanding on their understanding of the world and human emotion.

The Benefits of Storytelling for Young Children

1. Improves communication and listening skills

Storytelling teaches children to listen. After all, in order to hear the story, you need to be quiet! Childrenabsorb language, the more words they hear, the more vocabulary they have to express themselves. Storytelling is a great way to expand on vocab.

2. Improves social skills

Hearing a story can be a sociable experience. Children often hear stories in a classroom setting, which teaches them social skills along with their peers. Characters within stories also demonstrate social behaviors which help to teach children about social ques and manners. 

3. Teaches values 

Children can learn important life values from storytelling. Many lessons are hidden within well told stories, to demonstrate right from wrong to children at an early age. 

4. Memory skills

The part of your brain used to remember things can be strengthened through storytelling. Children learn how to retain information from their favorite stories. 

5. Educational strategy

Keeping children engaged for prolonged periods of time can be a challenge, especially when you are trying to teach them something. Stories can be used to keep children focused enough to teach them complex topics.

6. Encourages creativity

Magic can happen during storytime. Storytelling can ignite the imagination of a child and allow them to create things that were previously impossible. 

7. Helps to bond with the storyteller

Telling stories can be a bonding experience for the child and storyteller. Children often remember having stories read to them by relatives. 

8. Helps to unite children within a community

A shared experience like being told a story can help to unite a group of children. At that moment they are following the same journey and learning the same things.

To Conclude

Stories are an easy way to nurture the development of your child or loved one. When reading stories you can relax in the knowledge that you are contributing to their education and their social skills as well as creating a loving, bonding experience. 

About Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations.  If you would like to try Peekabond here 

5 Ways to Use Love Languages for Young Children at a Distance by Alyea Sandovar

Valentine's day is not just for adults

Children benefit from love. Feeling loved not only helps improve your child’s well-being, but also improves their physical health, brain development and memory.

Communicating love to your grandchild can feel like a challenge if you don’t see them very often. These days, lots of families are navigating the challenges of loving their little ones from a distance. The good thing is, there are lots of ways to express love to a child. It’s not all just hugs and kisses!

What are the Five Love Languages?

The concept of the 5 Love Languages was created by a marriage counselor called Gary Chapman. Through his work with married couples, he discovered that different people receive love in different ways. Actions that mean a lot to you, might not mean the same to your partner.

He categorised these actions as languages. The 5 Love Languages are Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time and Receiving Gifts. He cites examples in his book of couples struggling to understand their partner’s efforts of communicating love. After all, if you’re not a fan of physical touch, having a partner who expresses their love by constantly touching you is not going to feel good! This concept has helped many relationships worldwide. Not just with married couples but with friends, work colleagues and children. Once you understand how somebody prefers to receive love, you can cater your actions to reflect this.

Usually, each person has one primary love language, and one secondary. So, your love languages could be physical touch as the primary and words of affirmation as the secondary. Any combination of the languages is possible.

It’s also worth noting that the way you express love is usually the way you like to receive love.

How the Love Languages Can Help Show Love at a Distance

Learning the love language of your little one can help you to communicate with them. Communication is key when you’re working on a relationship from a distance. Speaking to your grandchild in their love language can help build bonds and bring you closer. Children love to feel loved. You can create lasting memories and leave a lasting impression if you can communicate your love effectively.

Discovering the Love Language of your child from a distance

Now, this could be really obvious to you, or an absolute mystery. It’s ok if your grandchild’s love language is unclear. We have a few suggestions that might help you discover them remotely:

  1.  Start by asking! If your little one is at an age where they can talk to you, there is always the option to ask. You can talk about what makes them feel loved. If they are unsure, talk about what makes you feel loved, or even describe some of the love languages and see what evokes a reaction. ‘Grandad bought me a new puzzle book today! I love getting gifts from Grandad. Do you like getting gifts?’  
  2.  Notice how your child expresses their love for you. This might offer a clue as to how they want to receive love.
  3. Use a teddy bear or stuffed animal to role play the question. Instead of asking the child directly, they can express themselves through a toy they like. All you need is a stuffed animal of your own to communicate with.
  4.  Test out each of the love languages on your little one and see how they react. This might take a little longer but it’s a wonderful way to get to know your grandchild from a distance.

Using the Five Love Languages to Connect Remotely

Each love language can be used to connect with young children remotely. See our tips and explanation for each of the five love languages below. 

Physical Touch

Is your little one a big fan of hugs and kisses? Do they ask you to hold them or like back rubs when they need comforting?  Asking for high fives can also be a sign.

This might seem like a barrier if you live far away from the little one and physically cannot touch them! However, with teddy bears and a little bit of magic, you can overcome this.  Tell your little one that your teddy bear is magic and can send your hug to them! All they have to do is hug their own teddy bear at home. Refer to the teddy and say: ‘I’m giving Bear a really big hug for you right now!’. In turn, they can hug their teddy to send a hug back. This also works in a pre-recorded video. You can even ask your grandchild – ‘Did Bear give you Grandad’s hug?’.

Quality Time

Receiving your undivided attention might be how your child feels the most loved. Kids who respond best to quality time like to be focused on. Eye contact is important. Making sure you take the time to ask them questions about themselves.

Quality time does not have to mean a special outing. You can give your child quality time remotely. This can work in a live video or even a pre-recorded one. Make it clear that you are dedicating this time to sit down and address them. It might be as simple as watching them play with a toy.

Receiving Gifts

Lots of people like to receive gifts, especially children! But for some, it can be the ultimate message of love. To be clear, this is a freely given gift that the child did not have to ‘earn’. Gift giving is not the same as a ‘reward’ for completing a chore or behaving well. This can send mixed messages. The child should feel worthy of love even if they aren’t excelling in a certain area of behaviour. The idea is for the child to feel loved unconditionally.

Gifts do not need to be of great monetary value. You do not need to constantly buy expensive things for your grandchild. Gifts can be anything you find that makes you think of them. A nice leaf you saw when you were out for a walk. Their favourite food or snack of choice. When you communicate with your child from a distance, you can show them the gift in the video. ‘Look at this beautiful shell I found for you when I went to the beach!’. If your relationship is very long distance, you can collect the gifts in a box for the next time you see them. This can serve as a nice time capsule, punctuating your relationship with memories and milestones.

Acts of Service

Some people feel most loved when certain things are taken care of for them. With adults, this can be small acts like making a cup of tea or completing chores around the house.  Completing these acts can have a very positive, love affirming impact on the receiver. For children, this can be a little more complex as it is important to encourage them to complete simple tasks themselves. You can still find acts of service to do for them, such as brushing their hair and styling it the way they like. Or repairing a broken toy or piece of clothing they are fond of.

Acts of Service works nicely from a distance. You can listen to the interests of your little one and learn more about them in your own time. You can research the things they like to tell them useful tips, or finding solutions to problems they have. ‘I heard you’re making cakes to take to school! I’ve found a lovely recipe I think your class will enjoy’.  Alternatively, you can mend or replace an item they are fond of. ‘I heard your favourite teddy needed some help. Mummy sent him to me in the post and I have fixed him up for you! He’ll come back home on Wednesday.’

Words of Affirmation

If your child’s love language is words of affirmation, they will respond well to kind words, compliments, and praise. Your grandchild will simply enjoy being told they are loved.

This one is particularly easy to achieve remotely. In your videos or messages to them, make sure to include praise on a recent thing they did or even an aspect of their character. ‘I love how kind you are to your friends!’. Simply tell them how important they are to you and they are sure to feel loved and worthy.

You've Got This!

Discovering your grandchild’s love language can be a useful tool for bonding remotely. With a bit of creativity, you can build a meaningful connection and support the child in their development and growth. The creator of the 5 Love Languages (Gary Chapman) describes each child as having an ‘empty tank’ ready to be filled with love. Bad behaviour can be the result of an empty tank! You can help support the parents of your loved one by filling this tank with them. What a wonderful contribution to their life that everyone can feel good about.

About the author

Dr. Alyea Sandovar is a gamification and child development expert. She is currently the COO at Peekabond.

She was inspired to get into games through games she played with her Abuelita Lela in Colombia. Later as a psychotherapist she saw the power of play and games to transform the lives of her clients which led her to her studies in video games.

She believes creating playful products should not be a headache. As a Kingdom woman, she aims to bring love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and determination, to every client project. She loves God, cocoa drinks, traveling, dancing and is a bit obsessed with UFOs and Sci-Fi. Her super power is prayer!

Join us at Peekabond by downloading the app here

OK Play speaks to Peekabond

Peekabond meets OK Play!

We have all seen a lot of development in virtual technology. Families, friends and loved ones found themselves separated from one another in response to Covid-19. A difficult time for many, as children grew up inside the safety of their homes with less interaction with Grandparents, loved ones and friends. 

Suddenly, our existing video technologies were found sincerely lacking. The need for creative, inspirational applications became apparent. Keeping families connected in a playful way became a driving force for many innovative tech companies, including Peekabond and our friends at OK Play. 

Educational, versus fun versus meaningful connection

These days, screen time gets a bad rap. It’s no wonder really, children can be exposed to apps all day long. Many students state they would rather learn from an app than in a real physical lesson. There are some huge benefits to consider here. Children learn in different ways and apps can provide individualised learning, which cannot be simulated in a traditional classroom. It’s important to understand your child as an individual and recognise what tools they might need. Educational apps face problems when children become distracted from their lessons and fail to remain on topic. Too many educational apps can disrupt the curriculum being taught at school, taking the focus away from the information children need to move forward with their learning, instead of sideways. However, both Peekabond and OK Play are committed to meaningful connections and interactions with children through technology. 

OK Play

This month, Anieke (our CEO) and Alyea (Chief Play Scientist) connected with the inspiring Dr. Colleen Russo Johnson (also Chief Scientist) at ‘OK Play’. 

"Colleen is one of the most inspiring people I've come across since founding Peekabond. Not only is she a cofounder of OK Play, she's also a co-founder of the ‘Children’s Media Lab’ and above all: a Mom. She sets an example of being very open, collaborative, and transparent about her key learnings being a Chief Scientist at OK Play. The path of OK Play is an inspiring journey for Peekabond.”
Anieke
Founder Peekabond

Here at Peekabond, we are very keen to learn about new, better or different ways to improve the connection between families at a distance. Creating relationships with other app developers, specifically apps for children, helps all of us in the marketplace push the needle forward in service and functionality. 

What is OK Play?

OK Play is a digital platform where kids create their own stories and videos, and share them with a community of other awesome young creators.

OK Play has a unique way of connecting generations by creating content that invites the grown-ups into the experience. Kids can co-star in content with grandma, or send their new creation to a loved one.

What does Colleen do as Chief Scientist at OK Play? 

Lots of roles add up to being the Chief Scientist of OK Play. Colleen reviews all scripts from a child development and educational perspective, curates the content that shows up in the app, and writes education related copy. Overseeing the content once it’s in the app is a large part of her role. Specifically in weekly play testing OK Play conducts.  She explained how in addition to reporting on key findings and recommendations, her research team creates a playtesting video reel so the entire OK Play team can hear directly from their users. 

Colleen also oversees user content moderation – a large team that approves and rejects user-submitted content based on safety guidelines. Her team also puts together regular “creator insights” reports based on the content kids submit into the app, to better understand what kids are interested in and how they’re using the app. After that, there’s social media, PR, podcasts, blog content, and award submissions to collaborate on with the OK Play team. She also conducts original research on topics important to the company (e.g. a recent collaborative project looking at how families talk about race and racism, resulting in an upcoming guide). 

How does Community Factor in at OK Play?  

Creating a direct line of communication with users is critical for OK Play. Colleen and her team build a rapport with the parents and children using the app. In this way, OK Play champions ‘super creators.’ Weekly spotlight videos also feature dozens of children’s submitted content which encourages positive activity in the community. Forming relationships with non-profit organizations and academic organizations is also hugely beneficial and supports ongoing collaborations, which are key to growth and development. 

Who Is The Target User? 

OK Play has become even more child-focused than parent-focused, meeting the momentum of COVID-19. Their core focus point is to spark creative skills in children, empowering children by teaching that self-expression is meaningful. Colleen says that they continually found that older school-aged kids were using the app, and they decided to lean into that, because kids in the 6-10 age bracket have limited options, and most are pure entertainment. Colleen sees OK Play as a unique and refreshing way to tap into children’s desire to creatively express themselves through art and storytelling.

It’s inevitable that children will start to have their own devices at earlier ages as time goes on. The average age a child is given a smartphone is now estimated at 10 years of age. Responsible screen time and kid-focused apps are more important than ever.

How Does OK Play Create Content? 

Colleen says, “A combination of brilliant creatives, subject-matter experts, and most importantly — kids! We always start with a really great story, which is led by Craig Lewis and Travis Chen on our team, and we weave the lessons in naturally by collaborating at every stage starting at concept ideas.”

Then, by play testing every week. OK Play works directly with the content and creative teams which enables them to create challenging content that inspires creativity. OK Play keeps a close eye on app activity and moderates everything that comes in. Taking a keen interest in what the children are doing helps to develop their own content ideas. 

What about fun?

OK Play believes in making it fun. As Colleen says, “If kids aren’t engaged and having fun, they won’t learn as much. Kids learn best when having fun.“

Onwards and upwards

We’ve learned a lot from OK Play. Sharing tips and exchanging ideas with other brilliant app developers is one of our favourite pastimes. We can’t wait to start implementing some of these key elements to Peekabond! 

 

About Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peekabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. 

You can download Peekabond here