Take it from me. Once you have a grandchild all you want to do is hold them. At least until they start crying, and then we hand them back, right? Myth buster: even then we still want to hold on to them. Unfortunately, the truth right now is that many of us grandparents, new and veteran, aren’t getting the chance to be as close to our grandkids as we would like to be.
I’m the proud grandma of Owen, aged eight months, and while we were lucky to have him (and his parents) live with us for a few months during the start of the lockdown, for the past couple of months they’ve been living in their own place. As Owen’s dad goes out to work each day, we are socially distancing to make sure we all stay healthy.
Watching my kids keep up with their grandparents, my parents who are now in their 80’s, has been interesting also. For birthdays, and we’ve had a few during Covid, as well as a high school graduation, my parents made videos and emailed them to the kids. My sons have gone by their place to help with yard work and other little jobs (from a safe distance), my daughter and have gone for socially distanced deck visits, and my parents have driven by to see their first great grandchild as well. It’s an effort. But it’s worth it.
Here are some tips I’ve been sharing to help you stay in touch with your grandkids and grandparents, from varying stages of access to varying age ranges.
1) Grandparenting virtually; no personal face to face contact at all.
a. Set up a regular time for calls, whether they be Zoom, Skype, or even a telephone call. Adjust to child’s schedule if possible, to catch them at their best time of day.
b. Think about what you will talk about, or activities you will do in advance of the call.
c. Make up a quiz for them about you, or have them quiz you about what you were doing at their age, without a lock down in place.
d. Mail them real paper letters, and encourage them to write back.
e. Parents, let the kids be on the call themselves if they are old enough to do so.
f. For tiny kids, keep the calls short but think about a book you could read, a song you could sing, or just making faces.
2) Grandparenting socially distancing from six feet away.
a. Plan your porch or back yard visits. Check the weather and bring your own chairs and food, water.
b. Reading books can be great. Buy two copies so they can read along with you without getting too close.
c. Play games that don’t require closeness. Trivia games, Battleships, make up your own.
d. Do some yoga, exercise or make some food if you are outdoors. Grandparents can barbecue it all up.
e. Drop off favourite foods from grandma’s house, for the parents too.
3) Grandparenting in person, inside the social bubble, or living with them, perhaps while they try to work from home.
a. Establish expectations of responsibilities and childcare hours needed/wanted, in advance.
b. Review the responsibilities once a week. Is it working for everyone?
c. Don’t assume you know how to help. Ask what they need help with and do it the way they want it done. Maybe it’s making dinner, doing laundry, or other less hands on child related activities.
d. Listen to the rules the parents have in place for their kids regarding lockdown, safety, food, and discipline.
Remaining engaged and in contact with grandparents and grandkids doesn’t have to be a huge production. Plan a five-minute call, a 20-minute porch visit (watch the distance to get there and if you will require a washroom visit), or take the kids to your house (if you can) to give their parents a well needed break. We’re all in this together.