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Caring for Grandchildren During COVID-19

Grandparents know the deep joy that comes from watching our grandchildren growing up. Children help remind us of all the good things in our lives and ourselves. Unfortunately, this year has made it more challenging for us to spend time with our grandchildren because we can’t see them face to face. Instead of believing this is just the way it has to be, if we work with our children and grandchildren, we can help make this a year where our bonds become even deeper.

We all are finding this year to be a year filled with uncertainty, confusion, and even fear. The younger our grandchildren are, the more they need our perspectives as grandparents. Hearing stories of other times we’ve experienced challenges and how we overcame them can put what everyone is experiencing today into context. Various studies show that proximity to grandparents has many scientific benefits for both our grandchildren and ourselves. Some of these benefits include connection to heritage and identity, an extended support system, and a better quality of life – for everyone. Even if we are unable to see our children in person, we can still call and chat with them online.

Depending on our living situation and our particular health context, we can also support our grandchildren by offering to watch them. This might be informal watching like getting on a Zoom call and reading them a story, or having a virtual tea party so their parents can focus on other work. This might also be more formal, like picking them up from a child care provider listed on TOOTRiS.com, or other child care options available close to where we live. Providing either informal or formal assistance can both give our grown children room to breathe and create meaningful moments for our grandchildren. Children love routines, and someday they will tell stories to their children about the summer grandma or grandpa called every day to tell stories and listen to their adventures.

Keeping up with grandchildren can be hard. Grandchildren tend to become Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, bouncing all over the place. If we are connecting more with our grandchildren, virtually what can we do to keep up? One way is to incorporate them into all aspects of our senior fitness plans because staying physically and mentally healthy is important at any age. We might consider regular Wii Fit games or playing a game like Dance, Dance Revolution to get us all up and moving. We might come up with fun challenges like each person going for a walk separately and telling each other five things we saw, five things we heard, and five things we smelled. There are numerous ways to incorporate fitness into our time together. 

Sadly many of us do not have grandchildren or do not have close ties to them. We might wonder if this means we can’t connect with younger generations. The great news is the answer is usually no. There is a growing number of organizations that connect seniors with youth creating meaning and purpose for both groups. This is important because both us seniors and Generation Z are struggling with issues of loneliness and isolation.

While this year has made caring for grandchildren more complicated, it has not made it impossible. With a little bit of creativity and elbow grease, we can make this year a meaningful one. We can make this year a year that no one in our families will ever forget.