Life has turned upside down, the kids are all home from school and on top of all that, we’re supposed to stay away from grandparents, too.
The spread of COVID-19, the virus that has shut down much of the world, is especially dangerous to those over 65. The CDC recommends that seniors stay at home and avoid mixing with others, including grandchildren, at this time.
At the same time, this crisis is when we need the support of family members more than ever.
San Francisco resident Jennifer Rhodes is seeing more interest in Grandy, the online platform she co-founded to help grandparents and grandchildren connect. “We have lots of grandparents and grandchildren reaching out,” she says. “Our business is definitely picking up.”
This site and similar ones such as Caribu allow families to connect over books, activities and a virtual play date.
Rhodes points out that senior loneliness has been an epidemic long before anyone ever heard of COVID-19. “The one positive thing is it has brought this issue to the surface,” she says.
Here are a few suggestions to keep grandparents and grandchildren connected during this difficult time:
If you live close by, grandchildren and grandparents can still meet in a public place. They just must stand at least six feet apart. My own mother did this with my brother’s family and really enjoyed it. She got the benefit of getting out of the house, breathing fresh air and seeing cute playing kids.
Send each other care packages. Kids could put in crafts they have made or special drawings. Grandparents could pack home-made cookies or a toy they have kept from the past. Think what would best brighten the other person’s day.
Send each other handwritten letters. Who wouldn’t love getting a personal handwritten letter in the mail rather than another bill or ad? Plus, your kids can practice their handwriting.
You don’t need a special service to connect creatively online. Use any free video chat service, such as FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangout, Skype or Facebook. Here are some fun activities grandparents and grandchildren can do online:
Write a list of 10 questions and have your children interview their grandparents. Some examples: What was it like for them as children? What toys did they like to play with? How did they spend their free time? What are their favorite childhood memories?
Ask grandparents to share stories of their lives with the grandkids. What are the most important lessons they’ve learned? What advice do they wish they would have received as children? If they don’t want to say this on video chat, they could also write it down and email or postal mail it.
Have the grandparents read a story to your child either over the phone or on video chat. This can be particularly helpful in these times when the schools are closed and parents are trying to work from home. A grandparent could entertain a younger child as the parent tries to get something done. I so appreciated this when my first grade son’s teacher did this for his class. As an alternative, the grandparent could record a story and then upload it to a personal YouTube channel for later viewing.
Do a craft together over video chat. Maybe Grandma can show your child how to knit?
Cook together with video chat. Get those great recipes and techniques while everyone has the time. If live cooking together seems too difficult, grandparents can copy their favorite recipes and either email or send them in the mail. Ask the grandchildren to report back on how the cooking went.
Play a board game or a video game online.
Have grandparents show their printed photos in photo albums over video chat. The children will love seeing their own parents as kids.
Grandchildren and grandparents can videotape each other a message on their phone and then email or text it for later viewing. Maybe Grandpa could show the flowers blooming in his yard or the grandchild could demonstrate a new dance move she has been working on.