If there’s one thing the pandemic has driven home, it’s that without care work, everything screeches to a grinding halt. Despite that, we’ve all had to make adjustments to the ways we work and socialize in order to keep each other safe. One way to achieve just that is to move caregiving (at least partially) online.
Have you been toying with the idea of offering Virtual Care in some capacity, but aren’t sure where to start? We’ve spoken to a few caregivers and compiled some pointers for you.
Virtual Care (VC) is a way to support families by providing childcare through video chats, using a smartphone, laptop, or tablet. It requires a stable internet connection on both sides.
Start with families you know
Transitioning into VC is easier when you’ve already established rapport. Try reaching out to families you previously worked with. Ask how their childcare needs have changed, and if they’d be open to giving Virtual Care a shot. Maybe they have limited access to their regular childcare facility and/or are juggling working from home and watching the kids. Either way, chances are they can use your (virtual) help.
Anticipate short(er) attention spans
Perhaps the biggest challenge to Virtual Care is keeping children engaged. “It’s hard for kids to focus when they can’t really see you or touch you,” one caregiver says. Her advice is to go with the flow: “Once their attention is gone, I leave them be. I’ll just tell them to do whatever they want to do. Maybe they want to watch cartoons, so I just stay there and watch them watch cartoons.”
One way to keep kids engaged for longer is to turn everyday activities into competitions: Who is the fastest, strongest, or can complete the most reps? That way, even something as simple as fetching a glass of water can provide focus and a sense of achievement. With older children, you could do small athletic competitions—jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, the works. They’ll burn off so much energy, parents will love you for making their life easier come nap or bedtime.
Communicate closely with parents
Even more so than with in-person childcare, communication is key here. Keeping in mind that VC spells will likely turn out shorter, make sure you manage expectations in advance and throughout. Ask parents what they want to get out of Virtual Care: Have time to run errands, cook dinner, take a nap? Be prepared for them to be more or less around while you’re caring for their kids. If they’re up for it, you could even involve them in a game of hide and seek or two!
Advertise your Virtual Care skills
Don’t forget to add your newly acquired VC skills to your Care.com profile. Go to “My Profiles”, open your profile and select ‘Virtual Care’. That way, when families search for providers who offer Virtual Care, your profile will pop right up. Also make sure to describe your Virtual Care skills and/or experience in the description. You could start your bio with something like: “During Covid-19, I’d like to help care for kids by …”
Since distance learning isn’t new, Online Tutoring may seem somewhat more familiar in principle. Regardless, virtual teaching has its peculiarities. Here’s how to tackle them.
When in doubt, overcommunicate
Video tutoring lacks some of the familiarity of in-person teaching and makes it harder to pick up non-verbal cues. To compensate, make sure you elicit regular verbal confirmation from the child that he or she is grasping your explanations. While this might result in a slightly slower learning pace, it’s worth being sure that your tutoring is bearing fruit.
Start with a familiar topic
Based on her experience with video tutoring, a teacher recommends: “Try to do the first session with the child on a familiar topic, so that they get used to the technology, prior to tackling something more difficult.” Online tutoring with its lack of tangibility can be frustrating for kids struggling with particular topics. By easing into the unfamiliar set-up, tutors can diffuse worries and set the scene for the really challenging stuff.
Involve parents or guardians
According to one tutor we interviewed, it’s essential to get parents on board. “If they have a parent who can be involved in the learning [and] support the behavioral and emotional needs of the child”, it makes for a more effective learning experience.
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