As winter looms, many of us who’ve been able to socially distance with grandchildren outside are now grieving for the near future when the weather will prevent even that abbreviated interaction with our beloved progeny.

Whether rain, sleet, or snow, it’s going to become difficult, if not impossible, to have visits of any kind until spring. And, we’re among the lucky ones who haven’t been prevented from seeing grandchildren at all the past eight months.

Strategies

Most of us have now become accustomed to FaceTime or Zooming with our families. But Face Timing with a shy four-year-old little boy or a new baby doesn’t bring the semi-punch one can get with older and more communicative young relatives. And sometimes older grandchildren may simply not be interested.

Bottom line, we need to create strategies that work with individual kids. If possible, we should also keep in mind the busy schedules and stress level of their parents.

My two kids and their spouses have young children, and everyone’s working full time – three parents at home, one back in a hospital setting.

The stress level of each household is unimaginable, and I am ever mindful that my need as a grandparent to connect, whatever the strategy for the grandchild, must be adjusted and respectful of the difficulties of two parents trying to cope with the challenges of raising children during a pandemic.

Story Time

Eight months ago, one of my primary strategies for the three- and six-year-old girls was to read them stories on FaceTime. I checked out books from the library and scheduled story time about once a week.

Then, using both my iPad and laptop, I connected with the little ones on the laptop, reading from and showing pictures from my iPad. That was a big hit, and I had an endless supply of books (having depleted my at-home library first).

Later on, I decided to write stories for the girls based on their interests. What followed was a chapter by chapter book (we’re now on our sixth ‘book’) based on silly, non-publishable stories about mermaids, fairies, and Peter Pan, as per each girl’s requests.

My husband did the ‘illustrations’ – a couple per chapter. The girls loved being the stars of these books. Each one took about a month to complete, given the pace of one chapter per reading per week.

Hint: I always finished the chapter with a teaser, so they couldn’t wait for the next reading.

Options

My four-year-old grandson does not like FaceTime. He doesn’t want to talk via any visual medium, and I (reluctantly) respect his wishes. But, how to connect when I can’t see him? One solution my son came up with was to watch him do puzzles.

I would send a new puzzle in the mail, which wasn’t that expensive, and my son would simply set his phone up to show Linc, my grandson, put it together.

Invariably, he chats to himself as he problem-solves, so even though I wasn’t conversing directly with him most of the time, I felt like I was ‘with’ him and his daily activities. Not perfect, no, but still a connection.

He also loves jokes, as most young kids do. I’ve taken to writing a joke a week on a postcard and sending it to him in the mail.

Hint: Why do giraffes have such long necks? Because they have smelly feet. Not rocket science, but still, he knows I’m thinking of him.

Babies

God bless technology. My daughter-in-law is fabulous at staying in touch with videos and photos of the kids, but the youngest grandchild was eight months old when the pandemic knocked on our door, and I haven’t had the chance to spend with her all the time I did with the other three at that age.

Sometimes I wonder if she knows that the person she sees behind the mask is the same one she sees on that little camera on her parent’s phone.

We’ve taken to Face Timing at bath time, the perfect way to ‘interact’ when she’s in one location for more than three seconds. Starting several months ago, I am usually ‘there’ at bath time, watching her splash, and repeatedly telling her my name (Nana).

She shows me her bath toys, or I ask her to find the duck (or whatever – you know how it goes) and I feel like I’m right there.

Now, she can say “Nana” and will often, when not in the bath, pick up the phone and say my name, forcing her parents to call me several times a day.

A byproduct of this is that these poor exhausted parents have someone else who can make comments and offer questions to the near toddler as she races around the house.

The Bottom Line

I’ve also sent cards and letters to the grandchildren telling them stories about their parents when they were young. They love to hear those tales, and it’s fun for me to recreate them.

For the holidays, we’re adapting. Usually, I write clues for a scavenger hunt for the kids to find their presents all over the house. This year, the hunt will be outdoors, in snow gear, and very quick. But we’re doing it.

Bottom line? We’re getting through this as best we can – all of us. And the connections we’re making with our grandchildren may end up being especially memorable.

Regardless, the reaching out is the most important. Also, one of the best things I’ve done for my grandchildren is to give a Grub Hub gift certificate to their parents once a month. That stress reducer is great for everyone.

What are you doing in your adjustments with your young grandchildren? Have you thought of creative ways to spend time with them? Would love to hear your suggestions! Please share below.

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