In 2021, gift your kids social connection

 The holiday season is all about spending time with friends and family. But socializing has not been a priority for most people since March.

Perhaps it should be. The more we spoke to our students, the more we realized that they want to spend more time with their friends and peers. Being socially connected gives them a sense of belonging and the more they interact with others, the more they grow as individuals. And it’s not just students; this is true for all of us. 

So when we decided to host a Christmas party for our students, we weren’t surprised by the number of students who showed up. Our students, who are spread out all over the country, logged in for an evening of music, some dancing and some storytelling.

Neha, from Bangalore, kicked off the evening by singing 'Snowman' by Sia. Sahil Lakhmani, an Openhouse alumna, performed dastangoi or kissagoi, an oral storytelling artform. His story was about a man who wanted his parrot to live forever and went to all the gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, to make his plea.

Sahil gave the mythical story his own modern twist. In his story, Brahma was watching TikToks and Vishnu was asking for a letter of recommendation from Brahma. The chat section was alive with laughter.

Indore-based Aman sang ‘Agar Tum Saath Ho’ and seamlessly moved into ‘Perfect’ by Ed Sheeran. Other students wrote “we’re singing along with you” and cheered him on. Anushka, a 9th grader from Lucknow, played the drums and Anisha played the piano and sang ‘All I want for Christmas is You’ by Mariah Carey. Deeksha, who leads a Theatre tribe at Openhouse, performed a dance routine on a medley of songs.

“I haven't performed dance on a Zoom party ever. But it felt really good. It was beautiful. A Zoom party isn't the same, but it's better than just thinking about meeting friends or complaining about it.”

Deeksha Madhu, a student from Bengaluru

But it wasn’t all song and dance. Gauri Mehra performed her poetry and Tushaar read an excerpt from the book Bully by Penelope Douglas. Twisha from Ahmedabad, delivered a powerful composition on what the world looks like to someone with a mental health problem. “There was so much positivity on that call. It was amazing,” she said later.

Finally, Khushi ended the evening with Prateek Kuhad’s song ‘Kho Gaye Hum Kahaan’ and brought back the Christmas spirit with 'Hallelujah'. In the chat box, there was only love and positivity for each other. Students cheered each other on, complimenting the performers on their voice and expressions.

Everyone had missed the feeling of being with their friends. Students wrote that the Zoom party reminded them of times they could dance in a room full of people. Another student wrote that the evening made his year.

Until a vaccine comes by, schools are going to remain shut. Till then, little efforts like a Zoom party with friends, or a games night with the family, or even a socially distant meeting with friends who live close by can satisfy the need for social connection! It isn’t the same as actually meeting in person, but in Twisha’s wise words, “It was the best we can do given the circumstances.”