By Susan Kurlander
Whether you are Grammie, Papa, Nana, Pop-Pop, Bubbe or Zayde, we are all interacting with our grandchildren differently as we face the challenges of social distancing. Even though we hope it’s temporary, we miss picking them up from school, going to their sporting events, having them for sleepovers and visiting with them if they live out of town. For many of us, the inability to be with them physically in–person, whether on a daily, weekly or only occasional basis, is a hard pill to swallow.
As a grandparent who was fortunate enough to see at least two of my four grandsons on an almost daily basis, I struggled with the monitoring of their use of technology when they came to our house after school. Given the current circumstances, I now look to technology to connect with all four of our boys in a way that they not only accept but are proficient at utilizing. So, here are some suggestions that will help us make the best of the challenges we are facing and will meet our grandchildren in a way that is familiar and, in many cases, easy for them to access.
Whether it’s platforms like Skype, Zoom, Face Time, Duo or the telephone, it’s important to embrace these online opportunities to connect face-to-face. Below are some ways to use technology in our favor:
- Have a virtual breakfast. Start with a similar food (oatmeal, yogurt, etc.) and ask them to try and add an unusual topping (nuts if no one is allergic, broken up graham crackers, cheerios, etc.). You do the same and decide which one tastes better or is healthier.
- Play trivia games. This week I looked up sports questions and found enough to use for multiple sessions. I shared the age appropriate questions (I wanted them to know at least some of the answers as well as gaining information from the ones they didn’t know) during one of our chats. They all suggested other topics for me to look up and were willing to stay connected as they responded.
- Watch a movie and discuss it. Come up with a few questions about the movie that you can discuss when you’re connected. (i.e. who was your favorite character? why did you think the ending was a good one, etc.). You might even suggest a few movies and let them select one or two they would like to watch.
- Hold a book club. Try finding a book they haven’t read that you could order two copies of. Send one to them and one to your home. Decide on a few questions and set a date to share your thoughts.
- Discuss your day. If you connect with them in the evening, ask them to mention three things they did during the day that were fun, interesting, or positive in some way. Then, share with them what was fun, interesting or positive for you.
- Hold a Family History Lesson. Share a picture of someone in your family who was not alive during your grandchild’s lifetime (maybe someone they were named after). Ask them, based on the picture, to describe what they think that person might have been like or what their name says about them. After you hear their thoughts, share with them what you know about that person.
- Read a bedtime story. Even though we can’t tuck our grandchildren in, sharing a story can be something they will remember when they grow into the amazing adults we know they will become.
Being age appropriate is important, so try only connecting with one grandchild at a time if there are multiple siblings. This could also be helpful if one of the children needs to use the computer, you could then connect with the other child by phone.
In “Roots and Wings: Raising Resilient Children,” a program offered for parents and grandparents by prevention education of Jewish Community Services, we stress the importance of using rituals and traditions as a strategy to help minimize or delay the onset of risky behaviors. Maybe a silver lining to our social distancing and self-quarantining is that our grandchildren are under their parents’ watch 24/7, reducing some opportunities for risky behaviors.
All of us want to promote resiliency despite the challenges we now face as grandparents. What better time than now to create new rituals and traditions that we may even want to continue once we are back to some semblance of normalcy.
Susan Kurlander, a JCS Health Educator, is a certified facilitator of the Hazelden Foundation’s “Roots and Wings” program.
Because children don’t come with an instruction manual, JCS offers a variety of programs, services, and supports for parents and families with children of all ages. Click here or call 410-466-9200 to learn more.