According to a recent survey by GrandkidsMatter, 42% of grandparents say their relationship with their grandchildren has stayed the same during the pandemic. Meanwhile, 31% said it became stronger, and 27% reported that it became weaker.
Is there a playbook for grandparenting during a pandemic? We seem to be writing a new one. I know this personally, having three kids with six grandchildren, all long distances away.
According to the study, grandparents’ physical health, mental outlook and emotional state impacted their responses. The “became weaker” group scored lower in health and were more likely to feel depressed, tired and hopeless. The “stayed the same” group had the highest mental acuity. Younger grandparents were significantly more likely to “become stronger” in their relationship. I interpret that as meaning “new” enthusiastic grandparents hellbent on enjoying their young grandkids.
Being separated is certainly a big factor during this time. It’s interesting: On one hand, some grandparents who were visiting when the pandemic hit suddenly became live-in grandparents. That helped their kids tremendously, and also provided a way for the grandkids and grandparents to grow closer. They could help mentor them and asisst them with school work. But over an extended period of time, you can wear out your welcome.
Other grandparents who lived relatively close to their grandkids and were used to helping out and being around could no longer visit. And then there were grandparents like me and my wife, who could only see the kids through video. And that took a toll mentally. Our kids are incredibly protective of their kids, and of us, so they didn’t want us visiting for our own health. Thankfully, they’ve eased up a bit on that, and we’ve now seen them.
Tips for Visits
So, if you live close by, what’s the best way to engage with your grandchildren? Experts agree that outdoor visits, with social distancing, are best.
When you’re not face-to-face, have daily phone calls and “see” each other via Zoom or FaceTime. Ask questions about your grandkids’ day, their friends and their schoolwork. You can still helpthem and mentor them using technology.
Creativity for Long-distance Grandparents
We have a daughter in San Diego with 6- and 9-year-old boys. She has been diligent in calling me, and we’ve actually grown closer with her and the boys through constant FaceTime calls.
The FaceTime video chats with our 4- and 6-year-old granddaughters are hilarious. We’ve been on as long as an hour, playing games with them. Let me tell you: It’s very interesting to play hide and seek via FaceTime. I also drilled them on exercises during one call. It’s lots of fun, and also helps build memories.
It’s Not Over Yet, So Set Your Expectations
This pandemic is still not over, and with cold weather coming, we don’t know what we’re in for. So be patient. My wife and I have sort of written 2020 off. Period. You’re going to miss milestones; we’ll likely miss the holidays. So be prepared for a new normal.
With more time on your hands, grandparents should work on having a daily routine and adding more spontaneous activities into their schedules. I have amped up my exercise routine abd taken guitar lessons (I’ve been playing since I was 10!). I also bought a lifetime subscription to a language service and am feebly attempting to learn Italian.
These activities will make you happier and stronger, and increase your coping abilities too.
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