Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults have been disproportionally affected. As a result, many grandparents found themselves separated from family members, including grandchildren, due to social distancing or cautionary measures to prevent their possible exposure to the virus. This lack of in-person contact for remote grandparents has been exceptionally difficult. Among children, it may have also caused anxiety, stress and confusion.
With the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) recommending people aged 75 and older be vaccinated, followed by people aged 65-74, many grandparents are finally making plans to reunite with family members once they are fully vaccinated.
Here's what to know about how grandparents can talk to their grandchildren about this separation as well as how to stay engaged during these challenging times, whether it be in-person or remote.
- Be honest. Explain that since the virus affects older people differently than children, many grandparents have had to limit their in-person interactions. This means that your family may have spent the holidays apart, as well as put a hold on everyday occasions, like weekend sleepovers or after-school soccer games.
- Validate their feelings. Reassure them that it is okay to miss you, and invite them to share their feelings. Express how you are feeling, too.
- Explain what's changed. Discuss how restrictions around social distancing are changing due to COVID vaccine roll-outs. The CDC states that people who have been fully vaccinated, including some grandparents and adults, can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
As more people are vaccinated and recommendations continue to evolve, be sure to consult the CDC's guidance regarding what has and has not changed in terms of social distancing, masking and indoor gatherings.
- Set expectations. Note that there are still CDC guidelines in place, including wearing a mask in public settings, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. However, for those who have been fully vaccinated, gathering indoors with other fully vaccinated people or with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with grandchildren) is now OK.
It is still recommended that fully vaccinated people delay domestic and international travel, however. If you do travel, you’ll still need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.
- Continue to stay connected. It can still be a good idea to schedule time to connect remotely. This can help grandparents and grandkids have something to look forward to each day or week. You can draw or do other art activities; read a story; sing a song; play a game or try a stress buster.
You’re not alone. As the global leader in child-focused humanitarian response, Save the Children is proud to launch Coronavirus and Kids: Resources from Save the Children to support parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, school administrators and those who care about children in response.
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