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Grandparents: Staying Connected During COVID

Recently, Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka asked me for some ways that grandparents may stay connected with their grandchildren during COVID – especially at this holiday time. I am grateful that she and I had the chance to chat as part of her Virtual Senior Health & Wellness Fair show. You may watch our segment here – or look for it on your local cablevision in Massachusetts.

Below are some of the ideas I offered!

Think about and build on interdependence, the sense that we need one another and can help one another. What’s your reaction to the word "interdependence"? Have you lived your life in an interdependent way? Especially during COVID, we nee to help one another. As a grandparent, you may not be able to visit in person but you can call and talk to your granddaughter who is a bit depressed. If your grandson runs an errand for you, maybe you send him home with a plate of healthy snack OR a plate of cookies.

Share your wisdom and experience, whatever way possible: zoom, snail mail, texts, FaceTime. Consider using this “staying-at-home time” to write some short notes - or a lengthy memoir. What are your values? What are the 10 most important life events you had? Who are the mentors who shared their wisdom or the sponsors who created opportunities for you and assured that you had the necessary resources? What are 3 things you wish you had known “starting out” that you learned the hard way?

Technology can be your friend. If you need help, ask for it - in your extended family or through the senior center and library, both of which are offering tech support and loaning devices. Connect with your grandkids over an "Apps2" online party: enjoy appetizers and share about favorite technology apps. Ask your grandkids to research apps for you – like apps that show walking trails near you or can help you track your budget. Make a joint playlist using an app like Spotify. Plan and research a trip together for when COVID is behind us. Remember: this too shall pass!

Keep The Core Traditions! What is most important to you about the holidays and how can you keep that going? Consider scheduling a call or online meeting to share an important part of your tradition - like grace on Thanksgiving or lighting the menorah. For favorite recipes, perhaps offer a Zoom cooking class, empowering the next generation, or send the recipe already prepared. Maybe use this time to collect and share your favorite recipes. If there are certain items that are important to you, can you share them (like Grandma's china) or send an item like an Advent Calendar. Also, ask your grands. What is their favorite tradition? Or recipe? Or do they have an idea of ways you can connect?

Share your spirituality. Studies have found that grandparents' spirituality has a huge impact on their grandchildren’ faith. Invite your grands to join you for an online service. Send a favorite prayer or Scripture passage and why it’s important to you. When you see or experience something inspirational, share it! Call, leave a message, text or send it along snail-mail. Don’t worry what they - or their parents - think. Trust the Divine and pray for the next generations!

Give the gift of decisions. Be clear about your end of life wishes. Your passing will most likely have a life-long impact on your grandchildren. Prepare well. Make sure you have all of your paperwork in order and that your loved ones know where it is. If your adult children can support you peacefully during this stage of your life, it will be much easier for your grandchildren. You will be a role-model in this aspect of living and dying. What a gift!

Support your grandkids’ families. Parents are struggling to work and help their children learn at home. Could you help by purchasing (or making) some holiday gifts OR ordering a meal to be delivered OR tutoring a grandchild OR just spending time with the grandkids so they get some love and a change in pace from their parents. Offer your adult children an extra dose of encouragement: maybe with a nice note, a bottle of wine or... a box of Calgon (remember their slogan: take me away!)

With an open heart, a little creativity and a willingness to connect, it is possible to strengthen your relationship with your grandchildren during these challenging days.

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