The world feels like a much scarier place than it did just a week ago. The numbers of people getting sick with Covid-19 are increasing exponentially. Communities are pulling together while we all try to stay away from one another. Family disappointments are piling up: graduations, trips to see new babies, weddings—all cancelled or postponed. Just when we need each other, we are told to stay apart. Experts tell us it will get worse before it gets better.
Grandparents, it is at times like this that you are needed most.
What every family needs right now is someone to turn to who can help make it feel safer. Who better than you? No matter how shaky you feel, here are some ways for you to be a source of strength and wisdom as your family battles the stress they are experiencing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Did you serve in a war? Live through the polio era? Spend time unemployed and broke? Watch a loved one struggle with illness or addiction?
Most of us have faced hard times and come through stronger. Share your stories with your family, especially if you never have before. Stories are the foundation of strong families, and now is the perfect time to strengthen those foundations.
We should all be staying away from our grandchildren right now, unless they live with us. This may be something new for you, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be an active part of their lives.
In many families, parents are working from home and also trying to supervise their children’s schooling. Can you offer help with a school subject? What about using Skype or FaceTime to participate in science experiments, or to help with story writing? Ask mom or dad how you can be involved, and offer some ideas.
There are other ways to help without being there. Send a big batch of homemade muffins to make breakfast time easier. If you live nearby, leave dinner on the porch. If you don’t, how about a gift card for grocery delivery from Instacart or a meal prep service?
Kerry at The Long Distance Grandparent has an amazing list of ways to help parents and stay connected to grandchildren of all ages. Check it out here.
Check in with family members frequently through a phone call, text or FaceTime chat. Whether someone is quarantined alone or with three children under the age of four, connecting with the outside world is vital to our sanity.
Exercise together. Next time you are heading out for a walk, call one of your grandkids and enjoy their conversation as you go around your neighborhood. Invite your grandchild to compete in a yoga challenge or a plank challenge. See who can go the most days in a row without missing a workout, or who can do the most jumping jacks.
Organize a virtual family party. We had a family happy hour last weekend, with nine separate households participating in a Zoom meeting. We sang Happy Birthday to the cousin who wasn’t having the celebration she’d planned, and toasted the people we love.
Over the weekend, one of our neighbors left bags of lemons on everyone’s porch. It was such a simple, sweet gesture, and looking at the bowl of lemons on my counter has made me smile a dozen times a day. What can you do to brighten the day for your family?
Sending flowers isn’t cheap, but sending a bouquet by text is free. Either one will let your grandkids know you are thinking of them. Send a link to a video you think they’ll like, or mail them a letter. Taking a few minutes to do something unexpected will boost both of your days.
On the rare occasions I’ve ventured from my house, I’ve been shocked by the number of older people out and about. Did you see the videos of the kids on spring break in Miami? How does your current behavior stand up next to theirs?
If you are over 65, you’ve been advised to self-isolate. This may mean not visiting your grandchildren, even if they live nearby. Are you complying, or scoffing that the recommendations are an overreaction? If you are younger, you may live in a state that has declared a stay-at-home mandate. Are you truly staying home, or are you still running to the store every day and visiting friends? Don’t add to your family’s worries by not strictly following the advice of experts.
Help stop the spread of rumors and half-truths. Whether you read something on Facebook, get a warning from a friend, or hear it on a news channel, take time to search for another source to verify what you’ve heard. No matter what your preferred source of news, don’t share anything you haven’t confirmed by finding the original study, news conference, or article.
Someday, your newborn grandson will be studying this time in a history class. How powerful it would be if he could also read your eye-witness account of what it was like for your family. Jot down your feelings, your observations, the things that you are doing to cope and cooperate. Keep a running diary until the day comes that we are allowed to return to our usual routines. It will become a family treasure.
Do you have any other ideas? Please share them in the comments!