One of the hardest things about being an expat at any time, is being away from friends and family. Now with the corona virus pandemic, this is even harder as we need to keep our physical distance and as no one knows when they will be able to visit loved ones in person again.

One key to remember is that physical distancing is not the same as social distancing. We can still stay connected with loved ones just as much, maybe even more than before.

1. Have regular meetups with family members or friends who live abroad via video calls. Meet up for a virtual cup of coffee or even meals to stay in touch with those you cannot visit. You can even arrange online game evenings and parties! Because of today’s technology there are hardly any limits to the types of social activities that are possible online – so be creative.

  1. Stay in touch with friends in the same city or country. It can feel as if your friends are hundreds of miles away when you are cooped up at home. Missing your friends is very common. If you are part of groups that regularly spend time together, continue your routine! Just arrange for a meeting online and make sure you have a nice drink or treat with you before the video call starts.

Many of our clients have mentioned a big concern when speaking to loved ones is that they are not following to the physical distancing rules advised. This is a particular concern for older relatives who are most at risk from the virus. So what can you do in this situation?

  1. Listen, but try not to judge. As in grief people go through many phases before they can accept this new reality. Some might still be in the “denial” phase. Give people time. Being empathic and non-judgmental means they are more likely to listen to your concerns.
  2. Understand their reasons Ask for their opinions and reasons for their behaviour. Ask what they know already or have heard and what else they would like to know. Maybe they are scared and are trying to feel in control. Offering alternatives that they can do, rather than saying what they shouldn’t do can help.
  3. Offer reputable sources of information. It is often easier for people to accept the words of official authorities, rather than younger relatives. If you are sharing information, make sure you get your facts from reputable sources. Share clear, concrete actions they can take and how these would help.  Personal stories may resonate more than statistics – pick an example from how someone they look up to has been affected.
  4. Share what you are doing. Most people don’t like being told what they should do, so another way in can be to share the changes you have made and more importantly why. Lead by example.
  5. Tell them how you feel. Your feelings might not be as evident to others. Express your concern at how their behaviour may be putting themselves and others at risk. Explain that you want them to stay safe and well and continue to be in your life, not just now but in the future. Maybe they would consider making some changes as a favour to you.

If all else fails, you may need to agree not to talk about the corona virus, and focus on other topics. And continue with the one thing you do you have control over – your own behaviour.