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Grandparenting During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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COVID-19 | Family / Grand-parenting / Roseann Kendall, BSN-RN, M.A., Bolante.NET’s Lead Medical Instructor
10 Tips to Help You While You Care for Your Grandchildren

Most K-6 grade schools in the U.S. have temporarily closed to limit the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, public health officials are telling older people (typically 60+ years) who are most vulnerable to the virus, to avoid children, who are less likely to fall ill but can easily be symptom-free carriers. We have not yet reckoned with the collision of these two public health efforts.

Often it is the unpaid work of grandparents who provide childcare. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found 22 percent of grandparents provide regular child care for grandchildren — other sources suggest it may well be more than that now. My husband and I routinely provide weekly and occasionally, weekend care for our two grandchildren.

Consider what happens when grandparents are removed from the family picture. First, who will take on the all-day childcare where schools and daycares are closed, but parents are still expected to go to work or cannot afford to stay at home? Second, where schools are closed, and parents are lucky enough to have jobs they can do remotely, who is going to keep those kids entertained while their parents are at their computers?

My husband and I are both 60+, retired, and in good health. Our granddaughter is 7 years old; our grandson is 3 years old. Since the COVID-19 responses have been implemented we have been caring for our adorable grandchildren full-time (for 1 week now) because our son has been going to his office every day and our daughter-in-law is working from home.

“22% of grandparents provide regular child care for grandchildren…”

— Pew Research

So how do my husband and I take care of ourselves while taking care of our grandkids? Here are some tips.

  1. Patience. With your grandchildren socially distanced from all their peers, you become their primary playmate. This takes imagination, flexibility, resources, creativity, negotiation, and, most of all, patience.

  2. Healthy meals. Make sure you have lots of healthy foods on hand that all of you can enjoy. Everyone needs a nutritious breakfast before you start your day. The adults get coffee; the kids get orange juice.

  3. Keep a routine. Regularly schedule snacks and quiet time or a nap. We have done deep breathing exercises with the children, and our granddaughter likes performing simple yoga poses.

  4. Give them some control. We let the grandchildren choose what they have for lunch as long as it includes a protein, fruit, and carbohydrate. Beans and rice with quinoa and a side of cold applesauce is a favorite at our house.

  5. Work together. Let the children pick their first educational activity of the day. Since it is different for different ages, one grandparent works with one grandchild at a time. We switch roles when we switch activities based on our strengths.

  6. Get outside. Make sure you build in plenty of outside activity as your location and weather permits. The kids need brain breaks after a couple of school assignments.

  7. Let them help. Empower your grandkids. As my grandchildren frequently say when I ask their help, “I’ve got this, Grandma!”

  8. Be flexible. Needs change, and so can your plans.

  9. Communicate your needs! Not only do the adults talk about what we are feeling, but we also try to help the youngsters express their feelings too. When we feel overwhelmed, we ask for a short time-out or gently suggest one for another.

  10. Sleep. Get lots and lots of restful sleep each night. You’re gonna need it!

Remember: Your primary role is to love your grandchildren and keep them safe.

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