Many first-time parents agree that they never thought it would be possible to love a person so much and so unconditionally . . . until they become grandparents, that is. There’s something about the children of your children that pushes that sense of limitless love even further. It’s not so much that you love your grandchildren more than your children, but it’s a love that’s a bit different, and in some ways, dare we say it . . . even better!
So what is it that makes being a grandparent different and even better than being a parent? For starters, many grandparents say that it’s simply more fun! After all, you get all of the joy that comes with parenting, without many of the responsibilities. When you’re a parent of young children, you’re responsible for every aspect of their life: feeding them, dressing them, cleaning up after them, caring for them when they’re sick, teaching them the basics of life, sending them to school, disciplining them . . . the list goes on and on. But when you become a grandparent, your role changes to that of being more of an entertainment director. Sure, many grandparents today take a more active role in the care of their grandchildren, but it’s still the parents who have most of the daily responsibilities. Meanwhile, grandparents have more time for the fun stuff, like playing games, telling stories, making cookies and going to the playground. And because they don’t have the everyday stresses that parents have, grandparents tend to have more patience, more time for amusement, and sometimes, to their grandchildren’s delight, more leniency with some of the rules. When grandchildren are young, many of them look at their grandparents as grown-up-size playmates. As they get older, many of them see their grandparents as friends and confidantes, some even feeling more comfortable talking about certain subjects with them instead of their parents.
And then came the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for many grandparents’ relationships with their grandchildren. Since older people are in the high-risk group for COVID-19, many of them have not been able to see their grandchildren for months at this point. This is a sad situation for both grandparents and grandchildren. But there are ways to make the best of the current state of affairs and even build stronger bonds than ever with your grandchildren, even if you can’t physically be with them.
The effects of the pandemic on grandparent/grandchildren relationships are perhaps the most serious for infants and toddlers. In their early years, children establish important bonds with those closest to them. They learn whom they can trust to take care of them and whom they enjoy being with. And because their memory is still developing, they unfortunately forget more easily than older children. So grandparents who are out of sight can quickly become out of mind to infants and toddlers. While that’s not necessarily the case with older grandchildren like pre-teens, teens and young adults, it’s still important to stay in touch and keep those well-established bonds strong. Here are some tips for staying in touch with your grandchildren in the midst of social distancing:
- Video calling: Whether you have an iPhone or an Android device, you can make calls from your smartphone so that your grandchildren can both see and hear you at the same time. For younger grandchildren, you can read them stories, sing songs and play games over video chat. For older grandchildren, it’s a great way to catch up on what’s going on in their lives face to face. FaceTime is probably the most popular video chat app, however it’s only available for Apple devices. There are also video chat apps you can download for Androids (see https://www.lifewire.com/can-you-facetime-on-android-1999174 for more information).
- Zoom meetings: The pandemic has brought Zoom meetings out of the office and into the living room. With the Zoom application, you can participate in online audio and video conferences with two or more people so that everyone in the meeting can see and hear each other. Zoom offers the same benefits as video calling, but you will benefit from the bigger screen on your tablet or computer when there are multiple participants. For information on how to use Zoom, visit https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-domaindev-st_emea&hsimp=yhs-
- Drive-bys: If social distancing restrictions are keeping you from visiting your grandchildren or allowing them to visit you, there’s always the drive-by option. Take a ride (or bicycle or walk, etc.) to their homes or have their parents drive them over to your home for a quick outside visit. While you won’t be able to hug them, it will still be great to see them in person, even if from a distance.
- Write letters: With the abundance of electronic modes of communication, letter-writing has gone by the wayside. But it’s actually perfect for the pandemic, and it will give your grandchildren a means of communicating that is a novelty for them. They may find it exciting to receive a letter or card from you in the mail, and it may inspire them to write back or, in the case of the little ones, send you a drawing that will look great taped to the front of your refrigerator.
- Send them treats: Let them know you’re thinking of them and wish you could be with them. If you bake, send homemade cookies. If you cook, send them their favorite meals. If you’re not handy in the kitchen, you can always order their favorite treats and have them delivered. Be creative with your hobbies and make them something to remember you by.
- Make a “hug curtain”: One family that was particularly close was really feeling the effects of social distancing. They designed a hug curtain by attaching plastic sleeves to heavy contractor-grade plastic sheeting and hung it from their clothesline outside. The grandmother was then able to hug her daughter and grandchildren for the first time in months. To read this heartwarming story, see https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200615/how-to-cope-when-covid-steals-loving-touch-hugs
Pandemic or no pandemic, being a grandparent is still one of the most rewarding experiences of the later years of life. Hopefully, a day is coming soon when social distancing will be a thing of the past. But until then, don’t let COVID-19 diminish your relationship with your grandchildren.