While the pandemic’s isolation, shutdowns, and social distancing measures have been tough for everyone, the elderly have been hit particularly hard. Seniors face the most significant health risks from COVID-19, meaning that for close to a year now, many grandparents have been unable to safely spend time in-person with their grandchildren.
While these measures are critical to protect physical health, the resulting loss of in-person connection with loved ones, especially for such an extended period of time, can cause great loneliness for seniors, which can eventually lead to mental health issues like depression. Children are impacted, too, when they experience confusion and anxiety over their lost relationship with their grandparents.
New vaccines are giving us a glimmer of light in the distance, yet there’s still no telling exactly how much longer it will be before kids and grandparents can be together again like they were in the “before days.” So, it’s time to get creative and to learn from the hacks many have already discovered, to stay connected and retain all the mutual benefits of this special relationship.
While video chats, texting, and old-fashioned cards and letters can never replace real hugs and snuggling, they do keep this special relationship strong, give grandparents a virtual seat in their families’ kitchens and living rooms, and help to lift spirits as high as they can be during these dark times.
Here are a few ways we’re seeing kids and their grandparents stay connected these days:
- Reading Stories
One of the purest joys of being a grandparent is reading together with grandkids. And technology has let that tradition continue even now, thanks to FaceTime, Zoom or your favorite video chat platform. Choose a book at the grandchild’s reading level and take turns reading pages. Kids will get the added benefits of improving their reading skills, building vocabulary, and developing their speaking abilities. Having a regular time read together each week can also give both grandparents and kids an event to look forward to.
- Playing Games
The pandemic does not have to mean the end of family game night! Grandparents and grandkids have many options for online gaming. Even classic board games like Scrabble, Monopoly, and Clue have gone digital. Like their traditional counterparts, online games also help children develop math and vocabulary skills while having fun.
- Emailing, Texting, Instant Messaging
Texts, emails, and IMs sent to one another on a regular basis help grandparents stay connected and up-to-date with the latest developments in their grandkids’ lives. Seniors can talk about what is happening with themselves and ask the grandkids to discuss the latest events in their own lives. Added bonus: when grandchildren use texts and emails, they’re also improving their writing, spelling, and grammar skills.
- Writing Letters or Postcards
Letter-writing is practically a lost art. But sending personal letters and postcards is a great way for grandparents and grandchildren to connect with one another. Handwritten letters and postcards can also be prized keepsakes that will help grandchildren remember their grandparents long after they are gone. When possible, encourage kids to hand-write letters and postcards instead of typing and printing them out. That personal touch is valuable. They can also decorate their letters or postcards with drawings and art, or include clippings of funny cartoons, interesting articles, anything else they’d like to share.
- Getting the Whole Extended Family Together
Tech-savvy grandparents can use video chat apps like Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and Google Duo to visit with all their grandkids at once in a group setting, where siblings and cousins can see and interact with one another together. Video chats also allow grandparents to see their grandchildren growing and changing, which can happen extremely rapidly during their first few years of life. Even very young children like toddlers can participate in video chats, which can help them bond with their senior loved ones, whether isolated across town or across the country.
Consider scheduling these virtual get-togethers on a regular basis, such as every Sunday evening, to give everyone something to look forward to all week.
And if grandparents aren’t comfortable with video chats, have an old-fashioned conference call with a cell phone or landline set to speaker mode.
For the Love of Your Family
With coronavirus infections and deaths surging, it’s more critical than ever for parents and grandparents to ensure their estate planning is complete and up to date — including naming both short and long-term guardians for minor children.
In addition to ensuring your kids will be protected and provided for no matter what, the estate planning process itself can offer a unique opportunity to enhance your connection with your children and grandchildren. Communicating clearly about what you want to happen in the event of your death or incapacity (and talking with your kids about what they want) can foster a deep bond and sense of intimacy.
Though such conversations can feel awkward, with us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help guide and support you in having these intimate discussions in an age-and-stage appropriate way with your children. In fact, our clients consistently share that after undergoing our estate planning process, they feel a deeper sense of connection with their children.
Call us today to get started.