How to Connect with Kids from a Safe Social Distance
Guest Post by Karen Mulder
As a Kids Hope USA mentor, you understand this fundamental truth: your student, like all human beings, wants to be known and valued. And that’s why mentoring is so powerful—it shows others that we value them by spending time with them. However, during this time of social distancing, you may have had to find different ways to connect with your Kids Hope USA student. As founder of the caregiving ministry Wisdom of the Wounded, I see firsthand the power of reaching out to someone in need. Our team has gathered ideas to help you care for and encourage your student, whether virtually or from a safe social distance.
LAUGH: Science tells us that laughing can enhance our physical, mental, and emotional health. It can lighten a mood between you and your student. Send your student a joke or riddle in one of your notes as a pen pal. Or, if you meet online, you could open with a joke. This will give your student something to look for and anticipate. Encourage him to start a joke collection on a computer or in a notebook. Then when he talks with friends or family, he will have something to share and may discover how enjoyable it is to make others smile. Online resources like, Third Grade Jokes, 277 Puns for Kids, and Riddles for Teens can get you started.
PLAY A GAME REMOTELY: Are you still able to meet with your student virtually via webcam? Close the distance between you and your student by playing some fun games together online during your session. This list of nine classic, free online games is sure to send you down memory lane—and help you create an enjoyable meeting with your student. Just be sure to read the website’s “fine print” to ensure you’re protecting your student’s privacy, as well as following all Kids Hope USA guidelines. If you’re mentoring as a pen pal this year, you could create some word scrambles or simple word or math puzzles for them to solve and send back to you.
SURPRISE YOUR STUDENT: Most kids, whether older or younger, enjoy a nice surprise. It is fun. It makes both the giver and the receiver smile. So, plan a small surprise for your student. If you are meeting online, tap into your inner performer to sing a silly song, or narrate a poem using funny voices. Or incorporate a “guest visit” from your pet. If your program allows it, you could arrange to send a small gift. Some ideas could include: a bag filled with popcorn and fresh or dried fruit. Or perhaps the surprise bag is filled with a book of puzzles, or coloring pencils and coloring book. Many students enjoy Mad Libs, which can be found at dollar stores. There’s even an online Mad Lib app, if you can get approval for your student to use it.
JAZZ UP YOUR INTERACTIONS: Just because you are meeting remotely, or temporarily confined to pen pal mentorship doesn’t mean your interactions need to be boring. Here are two ways to make your interactions memorable (and meaningful!)
- Do a “get-to-know you” activity. Maybe this time of social isolation is the right time to get to know each other better. So, make up a list of questions which you would like to know about your student. (Your student could do the same and give you a list of questions she would like to know about you.) For ideas to get you started see: “Kids Get Acquainted Questionnaire” created by Wisdom of the Wounded.
- Make your written work shine. If you are corresponding primarily through writing, take a moment to ponder: how can I make this letter “pop”? You don’t need to be a talented artist to catch a child’s interest. Consider adding a silly drawing, joke, or stickers to your card. Stick figures are fine! For inspiration, here’s a tutorial on creating simple doodles.
We at Wisdom of the Wounded hope that the above ideas will help you support and connect with your student during these times of social distancing. Also, these ideas may ignite your creativity as you discover and experiment with other ways of connecting.
Thank you for being a Kids Hope USA mentor. You are making a difference in a child’s life.
About the author: Karen Mulder is founder of Wisdom of the Wounded, a ministry that inspires and equips others to care for the suffering during life’s difficulties.