Virtual Grandparenting during Covid-19

For those young parents with young children working from home, trying also to entertain them whilst working can be a very hard juggle.  In my own family, my daughter – Mel, who lives in Adelaide, has a role that involves various meetings and deadlines during any one day.  Her husband is an essential worker, so she is often the parent to Felix, a 5-year-old, whilst working full-time.  

By Cynthia Munro

In this time of Covid-19 there are many families in this situation, and it can be particularly hard when there is only one parent.  I decided that perhaps there was a way that I could help out, 3227 kms away.  It was a success, so I would like to share this, as there may be many grandparents and grandchildren who would benefit from the opportunity, not to mention the break that the parents would have to allow them to get on with their work.

Mel and I discussed a structure for Felix for the day, which involved in general some school zoom activities, some educational programmes on the iPad, some exercise in the form of walking, some further learning apps and then free time.  Where I came in initially on this timetable was “Granny C time” for 30 minutes.  This took a little bit of practical and creative thought and preparation.  For the first session, I came up with 4-5 different activities and prior to the session communicated to Mel the resources that Felix would need for each session, like pen, paper, Sellotape, glue, card, ice block sticks, pipe cleaners.  Fortunately, he had these.  Each morning I would let Mel know which resources to lay out for him on the table.

He then Face Timed me at the exact time, and the session would begin.  The session would always involve colouring in (the page for this I sent through each morning) and I would colour the same drawing and then we would look at each other’s drawing; this was followed by me reading him a book and he would look at the pictures (I flipped the screen for this), we would then do another activity using the pipe cleaners (or similar) and again we would show each other what we had made.  Doing each of the activities at the same time seemed to be really important. Lastly, each day I would make up sentences on the whiteboard (could use a screen or sheet of paper) and he would read them to me, thus enhancing his reading ability.

This went from 30-minute session to 60-minute sessions and the time went by so fast for both of us.  Feedback from Mel was that he was thoroughly engaged for the whole time.

For me this experience was many fold – it was a break from my own work, it was the opportunity to connect with Felix, it was a chance to experience something different and it gave Mel back some precious time she needed for her work.

Virtual grandparenting, I discovered is possible, enjoyable and rewarding for all. Try it, or get your parents to give it a go.