Our new normal is placing seniors with grandchildren in a tough spot when it comes to staying in touch and being influential. Even as seniors are getting vaccinated, little ones (including teens and older grandkids) are at the end of the line. But there are many ways for seniors to stay connected and be a positive influence with just a little creativity and knowledge. Here are a few ideas that can help.
Walk the (tech) walk –
It may seem out of reach to some seniors, but using technology is the single best way to stay connected to today’s youth. Smart phones, tablets, iPads and computers are the magic carpet that help shrink distances and bring people together. Using video apps like FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom for groups, is easy and can bring seniors and grandchildren together quickly and easily. Even better is the fact that grandkids are pretty much geniuses when it comes to helping you get set up and asking for their help is a great way to get them involved and onboard. For more app options check out the HowStuffWorks.com blog, “8 Free Apps to Help You Stay Connected During Coronavirus.”
Share memories with Grandchildren –
Whether online, on the phone or in person, sharing past memories that are relevant to grandchildren can not only give them a history lesson, but help them know you (and appreciate you) better as well. One way to introduce the subject is to ask a grandchild what their favorite memory is and then share yours. Maybe they remember a favorite trip or event and then you can tell them about the same from your life.
Another idea is to ask them what they feel is the most important thing they have ever accomplished and then tell them your own experience. It doesn’t matter what the topic is as long as it elicits good feelings and memories. If you have photos or mementos to add, all the better. Sharing memories is good for seniors, but may be even more so for grandkids, as outlined in the Oversixty.co.nz article “Why it’s imperative to share your memories with grandchildren.”
Teach each other something new –
Seniors have a whole lifetime of knowledge and wisdom to impart to their grandkids, but kids are pretty smart too! Now that many children, all the way up through those in college, have been learning online for the past year, there’s no better time for seniors and grandkids to learn from each other. For little ones, maybe you can help them learn the alphabet or colors and for older kids, introduce flash cards and make it math or a spelling bee.
For those with a hobby or other area of expertise, short lessons in sewing, cooking, or drawing can introduce grandkids to a new pastime and inspire them to learn more. In return, ask them to teach you about using Facebook or another challenge they have already mastered. Making it a two-way process will give them a feeling of accomplishment by both giving and receiving. For more ideas, try the ca.care.com blog, “10 Things Grandchildren Can Learn From Their Grandparents.”
Become snail-mail pen pals –
The art of letter writing has almost become an anachronism, but one that could easily be revived, with a little dedication. After all, who doesn’t love a letter that’s just for fun? There can be a topic like “How was your week?” or just let it flow and see what happens. Don’t forget to add things like photos, funny cartoons they will understand, or maybe even send an occasional no-reason care package.
Equally important is the fact that writing (not typing), can help children improve their penmanship in a time when it is no longer a part of formal education. The key for grandparents is to be a loving, positive influence and let grandkids know you are there for them and appreciate that they stay in touch. For those who aren’t sure where to begin, the overthriverlife.com blog, “Things to Mail Your Grandkids” can help.
Read a book together –
Reading together is one of the easiest ways to not only share a wonderful story, but to help grandkids develop their own joy of reading. Choosing books in their age group is one way but reading a book above their skill level can also be fun. For example, most first and second graders cannot read one of the always wonderful , but will surely enjoy having one read to them, especially if they have their own copy to follow along with.
For older kids, there are great series like the Harry Potter books, “A Wrinkle in Time,” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and for teens, classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl” and “The Count of Monte Cristo,” to name just a very few. Reading the same book and then talking about it (even if you already read it) can be a bridge between a grandparent and book-loving grandchild. A great place to find book possibilities to share is at goodreads.com where you can search by age and genre.
At Ganton’s Countryside, we are looking forward to the day when grandkids can spend time in person with grandparents again. Until then, however, we will strive to help each resident stay connected and available. For more information about Countryside, please call Margaret Nagel at (517) 206-5000 or download our brochure to learn about our care levels, cost, and amenities.