Baby boomers are used to embracing grandparenting head on. Some of us have moved across the country to be with our grandchildren; others regularly bridge distances via FaceTime and Skype; many take pride in kayaking, rock climbing, jumping on trampolines, and doing yoga with our grandkids. Before the new coronavirus and COVID-19 came along, many grandparents were confident we could do it all. The threats posed by this new virus are humbling and present new conundrums. As schools and daycares temporarily close, many grandparents are wrestling with questions surrounding whether they can safely spend time with their grandchildren, and possibly help their adult children with childcare.
Is it safe to spend time with my grandchildren right now?
COVID-19 affects older people more severely than younger people — and children are notorious for spreading germs, notes Claire McCarthy, MD, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing.
“To be safe, grandparents really shouldn’t be doing childcare,” says Dr. McCarthy. “Even if the child is a baby who doesn’t go out into the world much at all, it’s impossible to be sure that the baby’s parents won’t bring anything home. As sad as it is, older adults are the ones who really need to isolate themselves. In a time of crisis, it’s natural to want to be with family and help them, but in this particular crisis families need to think differently — and keep grandparents safe.”
(See the Coronavirus Resource Center for information on how the virus spreads, how to protect yourself, and who is at highest risk for serious illness.)
Staying connected and helping families
Given current public health recommendations to practice social distancing — even with beloved grandchildren — many grandparents are grappling with two questions. What can I do to stay connected with my grandchildren? How can I help their parents, who may be working from home and trying to cope with their children being home from school?
Ways to stay connected to your grandchildren
Long-distance grandparents often become incredibly skilled and creative with FaceTime, Skype, and other ways of connecting face-to-face. Those who haven’t yet developed these skills can begin building them now. Guided by the age of your grandchildren, their interests, and the nature of your relationship, you can establish a daily meet-up online to read books, play games, or do activities.
- Simply calling to chat will get old quickly. Right now the children are home from school or daycare, and missing so much of their daily routines and activities. So, step in with “Nana Academy” or “Granpa Games.” You may begin to teach a young child to recognize the letters of the alphabet, or create interesting history lessons for an older child. Show off dance steps or favorite songs from your youth and have them share theirs. Again, be guided initially by your grandchild’s interests and your own. Start with small, sure-fire activities and expand when you can.