While the quarantines, shutdowns, and social distancing measures related to the pandemic have been difficult for everyone, grandparents have been particularly hard hit. Since the older you are, the more significant the health risk from COVID-19 is, grandparents have had to be more careful to avoid close contact with family members that may have much more public contact and exposure. This has left many grandparents unable to visit with their grandchildren since March of 2020. That’s a long time to be without the love and joy of grandchildren.
I know personally how challenging it has been to stay connected. Before COVID-19, I was able to see my grandchildren multiple times each year for extended visits either here in Colorado or in Texas where they live. I am well overdue for some face-to-face joyful grandchildren time. Heck, those pics above are my granddaughters with their new grand-puppy that I haven’t even met yet. They named her River!
I have been participating in my grandkid’s home school experience weekly which has been quite fun for me. They seem to enjoy it and it gives their parents a little break from the home school routine. The resources I have found online are great and span the gamut from museums, to the government, to not for profits, to those adults who have been thrust into home schooling due to COVID-19. This week I did a tour of the United States Mint which included a video on how coins are made from the design on clay or computer to the finished product. Then we did a history of $ video and one on the value of a dollar!. I ask the grands what they would like to learn about and then get busy figuring out what to present. It has been rewarding for me and them. Times that they will remember and I will cherish.
You and I both know how important connection is to our mental health. This loss of in-person contact for such an extended period of time can cause people to feel isolated and lonely, which can eventually lead to mental health issues like depression. At the same time, children who are unable to spend time with their grandparents may experience a sense of loss, confusion and anxiety over that missing link.
Seeing that the pandemic does not appear to be resolving any time in the near future, there’s no telling how long it will be before these social distancing restrictions will be lifted. With no end in sight, it’s important for us grandparents and grandkids to find ways of staying connected during this period. After all, we cannot afford to miss out on the beneficial effects a close relationship with youth can engender. With this in mind, here are a few tips for helping maintain a connection with children during the pandemic which every relative, whether it be a parent, aunt, or other relative can use. And get over yourself if you are one of those that doesn’t want to get with the technology of the times. If you are like me, you will jump whatever hurdles are placed in your way for the sake of your loved ones. So yes we are going to get used to web-based technology like FaceTime, email, and instant messaging (IM). Although video chats, texts, and IMs will never replace in-person visits, they offer one of the most effective ways of keeping those relationships—and everyone’s spirits—as strong as possible during these dark times.
1. Reading Stories
One way for grandparents to feel more connected with their grandkids is to read stories over video chat or smartphone. Choose a favorite book at the grandchild’s reading level, and take turns reading pages. This can give the grandchild the added benefits of improving reading skills, building their vocabulary, and helping them develop their speaking abilities. By picking a regular time to call and read together each week, it can also give both of them something to look forward to.
2. Playing Games
Even though in-person visits are too risky right now, family game night can still happen. Grandparents and grandkids have many options for online gaming, including even classic board games, such as Scrabble, Monopoly, and Clue. Like their traditional counterparts, online games also help children develop math and vocabulary skills while they are having fun.
3. Emailing, Texting, and Instant Messaging
Texts, emails, and IMs sent to one another on a regular basis can help grandparents stay connected and up to date with the latest developments in their grandkids’ lives. To catch up with one another, seniors can talk about what is happening in their lives and ask the grandkids to discuss the latest events in their own lives. When grandchildren use texts and emails, it also helps them practice writing out their thoughts and work on their spelling and grammar.
4. Mailing Letters or Postcards
These days, letter writing almost seems like lost art. But sending personal letters and postcards is a great way for grandparents and grandchildren to connect with one another. Handwritten letters and postcards can also be prized keepsakes that will help grandchildren remember their grandparents long after they are gone. When possible, children should be encouraged to hand-write letters and postcards instead of typing and printing them out. They can also decorate their letters or postcards with drawings and art.
5. Group Video Chats and Phone Calls
Tech-savvy grandparents can use video chat apps like Skype, FaceTime, and Google Duo to visit with the grandkids in a group setting, where everyone can see and interact with one another. Video chats also allow grandparents to see how their grandchildren age over time, which can be extremely rapid during their first few years of life. Even extremely young children like toddlers can participate in video chats, which can help them bond with their senior loved ones, even across vast distances.
Now if video chats aren’t something a senior feels comfortable with, a similar experience can be achieved simply by using your cell phone set to speaker mode. These video chats and phone calls can be scheduled, so they occur on an ongoing basis, such as a specific day and time each week, which gives everyone something to look forward to. Even short, 15 to 20-minute calls made on a regular basis can help grandparents and grandkids feel more connected and less isolated.
For the Love of Your Family
We can wear masks but we can’t do much about the current surge of coronavirus infections and deaths. However it’s more critical than ever for parents and grandparents to ensure their estate planning is complete and up to date, including naming both short and long-term guardians for your minor children. In addition to ensuring that the young ones will be protected and provided for no matter what, the estate planning process itself can offer a unique opportunity to enhance your connection with your children and grandchildren. Communicating clearly about what you want to happen in the event of your death or incapacity (and talking with your kids about what they want) can foster a deep bond and sense of intimacy.
Though such conversations can feel awkward, I am here to help guide and support you in having these intimate discussions in an age-and-stage appropriate way with your children. In fact, our clients consistently share that after undergoing our estate planning process, they feel a deeper sense of connection with their children. Schedule an appointment with us today to get started.