By Alison Wood, Contributing Writer
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the world, both in the United States and internationally, and until a vaccine can be approved and is in widespread use, it’s likely that we will all continue to be affected.
For grandparents and grandchildren, this period of self-isolation has been particularly difficult. Children are more often asymptomatic. With older adults being most vulnerable, the advice to avoid contact has been vital. However, a consequence of taking that advice is that kids and their grandparents potentially miss out on a relationship that is important to both sides.
There is some good news. Thanks to the digital age in which we live, social distance doesn’t need to lead to a loss of connection. There are still lots of ways to keep in touch.
Zoom, a virtual conferencing provider, has found itself benefiting from the pandemic, as huge numbers of people are accessing its services, both for business and personal use. And it’s definitely an answer for grandparents and grandchildren who want to reach out to each other, albeit in a virtual way.
However, Zoom is only one way for grandparents and grandkids to connect; Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger are among the many other options. Most of these methods of connecting are available for free — a big bonus as it means you can chat as many times as you want, and often as long as you want, any time, any day.
The downside is that there can be technological challenges to learning and setting up these systems and platforms, particularly for seniors who aren’t very tech savvy. But once these platforms are in place and the seniors get over the learning curve, they can be a great way for grandkids and their grandparents to meet.
Because there is the visual element to these video connections, using them is almost like being in the same room. Babies and young children in particular develop so quickly. Being able to see their young grandkids means that grandparents can still experience, firsthand, all of those important milestones.
As old-fashioned as it might sound, phone calls are still a great way for kids and their grandparents to connect and bond. Children love to share what has happened to them during the week, and grandparents can offer a willing ear to listen, especially at a time when parents might be feeling the pressure of having to work from home, homeschooling, and caring for younger children. Of course, it works both ways. Nothing can be sweeter to a grandparent’s ear than the sound of a grandchild’s youthful voice!
Many service providers now offer cell phones that are easier for people with visual or hearing impairments to use. Larger, simpler buttons, louder speakers, and headsets can help improve the experience of using the phone to stay in touch with loved one.
Social Media and Email
The various existing social media accounts can also help grandparents connect to their grandchildren. In particular, social media can be an easy way for older children and teenagers to connect with their grandparents. They might be more willing to touch base via a platform comfortable to them (such as Facebook) than with a phone call, which might be more socially awkward.
For those families not connected by social media, emails are another stress-free way to keep in touch. It’s an easy means of sharing family news and updates on how everyone is doing, as well as a good way to send photos and videos.
Letters and Cards
Even in this digital age, a handwritten card or small package can mean a great deal to people. Drawing a picture or sitting down to write Granny or Granddad all about their day is an excellent creative outlet for a child, and something that every grandparent would look forward to receiving. If grandparents write back, these letters will often something children will cherish for years to come. In the 21st century, many of us have forgotten how exciting it can be to receive a handwritten letter in the mail (especially a letter that isn’t a bill). Maybe one of the positives that comes out of this difficult time is again being able to experience the joy of simple things — such as a handwritten note from a loved one appearing in the mail.
Being Open and Honest About the Situation
However you choose to keep in touch, it’s always a good idea for grandparents and grandchildren to be open about why social distancing is necessary. Depending on the age of the child, the separation can be explained as an important sacrifice that is being made to keep everyone safe and to protect the wider community. Children thrive when they know not just what they need to do, but also why it needs to be done. By keeping the family in touch regularly during this pandemic by safe means, grandparents and grandchildren can stay connected, and their bond can emerge even stronger when life eventually goes back to normal.