Many of us have young people in our lives that we care about, whether they are our children or grandchildren. Over the past few months, the world of parenting and grandparenting has changed significantly because of Covid-19. As grandparents, you may find yourself in a position of caregiving for the young people in your life while parents continue to work, not seeing your grandchildren at all, or finding new virtual ways of keeping in touch. Whatever changes you have experienced, there’s no doubt that life is different and with changes come struggles and adaptation.
The struggles may seem external, like border closings restricting travel to see family, or social distancing preventing you from seeing family members nearby. The struggles may also be internal, like missing your grandchildren or feelings of confusion over whether or not to see family in person. Perhaps you’re worried about getting sick, or feeling the stress and frustration from things being more complicated than they were before.
During these changes, family relationships and connections to those we love remain so important. When it comes to grandchildren, whether they’re little with small attention spans or older with attention focused elsewhere, ongoing communication with grandchildren may pose challenges.
Tips For Keeping In-Touch With Grandkids During A Pandemic
Yes, communication may look different for now, but it doesn’t mean it is less important to stay connected. Trusting and caring adults make up a fundamental part of children’s and teen’s support networks to help them navigate the world’s ups and downs. Now, more than ever, staying connected to those supportive figures is important. Whether you are near or far, here are 4 tips — from a professional psychologist for older children, teens, and young adults — to help that connection continue.
#1: Keep Communication Open & Honest
It can be difficult to talk about Covid-19 with your grand kids, but it is necessary. Save the Children shares 5 ways of staying engaged with grandchildren during this time and highlights important points like honesty in communication, validating feelings, and talking regularly.
Be there to hear your grandchild’s worries, questions, thoughts, and feelings. You don’t need to have the answers, just be open to listening and create opportunities for them to share. You might ask questions in a curious way about how things are going, how they are doing, or what the toughest part has been. It’s OK to share about things that are still unknown. You may not be able to answer the questions, “when can we visit again?” or “when will things go back to normal?” and that is OK.
Things are changing rapidly with some loosening on social distancing, but we still know that some populations are more vulnerable to severe effects of the virus. You may not know when you will be able to (or will feel ready for) face to face visits again. It’s OK to let your grandchildren know that you miss spending time with them and seeing them in person.
It’s also OK to say no to visits if you aren’t comfortable with the risk. Continuing to communicate openly with your grandchildren (and their parents) will help them to feel connected, validated in their experience, and loved.
#2: Find Creative Ways To Connect Virtually
Finding ways to communicate with grandchildren beyond a phone call can be helpful in keeping connected. If you are comfortable with technology or have a person in your life that can help, you might explore some new ways of staying in touch with your grandchildren.
Apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, Kids Messenger, and Marco Polo are great ways to share videos, pictures, audio clips, and messages. Some of these apps, like Kids Messenger, have built in games and filters that can be good for a laugh together.
Getting on a family group chat is a great way to keep in touch with grandchildren; they love to receive pictures and messages. A private, family YouTube channel can be another way of sharing videos with family members and letting grandchildren know you are there.
If the idea of technology sounds daunting, sending a letter or card is another way to go. Nowadays, there is novelty in receiving something by mail that isn’t a bill or advertisment.You may receive a text message and not a letter in return, but the connection will be felt.
Online games are another way to connect with your grandchild. Joining a virtual games night or using online board games like Monopoly, Uno, Clue, Scrabble, or Bogo, can be a fun way to stay connected, too.
#3: Opt For Socially Distanced Face-to-Face Visits
With social distancing recommendations loosening in some areas, you might consider face to face visits. You may choose to see family members in person for birthdays or special occasions or you may be the one looking after grandchildren while parents continue to work.
Finding ways to do this that feel safe and OK for you is important. Consider keeping visits brief and outdoors if possible, including air hugs and hand washing. As more and more outdoor spaces open to the public in combination with nice weather, meeting for a walk, a picnic, or a backyard BBQ can be great ways to stay connected and reduce risks.
#4: Offer Your Unique Gifts
There are many ways in which a grandparent can offer connection and communication that is unique to other relationships. These gifts are beneficial to younger generations and grandparents alike.
As a grandparent who speaks another language, you might consider offering to video chat or connect by phone once a week to have conversations or read a story with your grandchildren in that language.
You might share a video about something you do that your grandchildren can learn. If you have a hobby that you enjoy like fishing, gardening, baking, knitting, pickleball, whatever your passion, consider taking your phone and recording yourself to share, show, and teach your grandchildren about this passion.
If you are tuned into your creative side and have a sense of humour, making a Tik Tok video for your grandchildren will be sure to get their attention. There is a wonderful couple in my neighbourhood who records 15 second videos of them dancing and lip synching to various songs and it warms the heart!
Covid-19 has changed what grandparenting looks like in 2020. As the situation continues to change, please do not underestimate the importance of your role in staying connected to your children and grandchildren. You can and should talk about Covid-19 with them, even though it may feel awkward. Your wisdom, vitality, love, and presence is still very much needed.