Few relationships are more special than those between grandparents and their grandchildren. For grandparents, spending time with the little ones sparks incredible joy and fulfillment. But in the age of the coronavirus, most grandparents are coming to grips with a new reality: how to stay connected when social distancing forbids hugs, trips to buy ice cream, or helping with child care.
With ongoing reminders about the importance of safeguards to protect our health these days, many grandparents are wrestling with how to stay in touch with their grandkids or offering child care support to their working parents. Despite our commitment to do our part to “flatten the curve,” the sacrifices we’re being asked to make may seem overwhelming at times.
We spoke with some North Texas parents and grandparents to find out how they’re making grandparenting work during the COVID-19 era. We also found some excellent information online that we’re happy to share with grandparents to stay in touch with their grands.
North Texans Share Ways to Stay Connected
To keep up with their tech-savvy grandchildren, many North Texas grandparents are using FaceTime and Zoom to stay in touch. Sue Y., a North Texas grandmother, keeps in touch with her 7-year-old granddaughter, an avid reader, by reading books together on FaceTime. Other grandparents in the area are popping up unannounced on FaceTime to read stories — as a surprise to their grandchildren who live hundreds of miles away. A great book to read if a youngster in your life is curious about the virus is Charlie Learns About Coronavirus, a free storybook that describes the virus and social distancing practices in an age-appropriate way.
And how about playing a game together on FaceTime? Dallas mom Lindsay W. reports that her daughter recently enjoyed a virtual breakfast with her grandma, then the two played the CandyLand board game together via the app. Lindsay observes her daughter’s resiliency during this time, and believes acclimating to this new norm is harder for parents and grandparents than with children, in most cases.
Even birthdays can be celebrated across the generations with a little creativity. Here in North Texas, we’ve heard from two moms that celebrated with a ‘drive-by’ birthday organized by grandparents to celebrate their grandchild’s special day.
Dallas Mom Susie H. has even found a way to engage her son’s grandparents with his school-assigned distance learning assignments. Her son was given an assignment to build an obstacle course, which she uploaded for the teacher to see and comment on. Susie gave her parents access to the site, and she says they love seeing what their grandson is learning, in addition to reading his teachers’ encouraging comments.
Physical Distance Doesn’t Mean Emotional Distance
As these examples prove, by thinking creatively and experimenting with new technology, grandparents can still find a lot of really meaningful ways to engage with grandchildren of all ages. The trick is to not allow yourself to be intimidated by the array of apps and devices out there, which can be a tall order for some grandparents, but luckily there are several online resources available for learning how to use these tools. Here are some helpful links:
And when it comes to thinking of fun ideas for what to do once you’re on the call, consider these thought starters from a recent Harvard article (hyperlink article):
- Establish a Grandparent Academy using your grandchildren’s name for you. The time can be used to teach a daily or weekly lesson depending on your grandchild’s age — anything from colors and ABCs to a music or history lesson.
- Create a ‘Cousin Time’ to chat with your grandchildren living in more than one family. Here’s an opportunity to read them a story or for you to share stories about yourself and your children.
- Cook and share a meal together at a designated time and chat about your day as you would at your kitchen table or in a restaurant.
Stay the Course
These are times that call for sacrifice from all of us. While older children will better grasp the importance of social distancing and other safety guidelines, younger children don’t understand why they can’t see their grandparents. This moment is difficult, too, for grandparents who’d love nothing more than to curl up with a grandchild to read a favorite book, help with a homework lesson, or spend the night.
With a little creativity and ingenuity, the loving relationship between the generations can be fostered now despite the physical distance that’s needed to flatten the curve. Stay the course, and know that this too shall pass.