by guest contributor, Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
Being a Grandmother During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Yes, you have a critical role to play as an Enchanted Self.
Grandmothers can sometimes feel expendable. After all, they are the ones that get to see the grandkids and then go home, not dealing with all the daily chores and responsibilities that parents take on.
Of course, there are families where the grandparents live in the same dwelling or just down the street. And there are many grandparents who raise grandchildren. But for most grandparents, seeing grandkids on special occasions or some sort of schedule that is compatible with the lifestyle of the senior citizen is the norm.
In the Past
When my grandchildren were young, I often spent a weekday afternoon with them and would see them again many Sundays when my husband would join me. But as the years went by, the almost two-hour trip seemed to get harder and harder and they were busy after school. There wasn’t a clear reason for me to come up on a weekday. Time passed and soon my husband and I were finding that a Sunday once a month or so, seemed to work best for everybody.
All our situations are unique and different. But the point is that now we are in the middle of a pandemic. Grandmothers are needed! Think of this like wartime when men were drafted. I suggest you ‘sign’ up before one of your children reach out in desperation. Here’s why I say that…
Children Reaching Out
Millions of parents are working from home or are at home due to the loss of a job. Also, millions of kids are home all the time as we practice social distancing and have school on a virtual learning platform. What this does to families is exhausting. Parents are trying to do their work from home as they also try to ‘teach’ their children. Parents that are not working may have other issues on their minds, such as managing a diminished budget, getting unemployment going, and maybe even spending hours in line at a food bank. Nothing is happening easily for most parents of young children.
Kids Are Struggling, Too
And that’s only one side of it. Kids are not having an easy time either. Most kids would much rather be in school than sitting in their kitchen or dining room or living room trying to do work off a computer screen. There are two reasons for this: kids like to go to school for many reasons that have nothing to do with learning. They like to socialize and be part of a group. They like to get away from their parents and perhaps even their siblings.
And they learn better when they are in the same space with a teacher and other students, as they concentrate longer at a task and pick up lots of cues that are missing in virtual learning situations. Also, many parents are not such good temporary teachers. There is a method to teaching material that goes beyond just presenting the material. A good teacher is picking up cues from her students, treating them all with respect, and recognizing instantly when someone needs extra help. Let’s be honest, most parents are not doing this. They are just trying to get through the day. It’s the old story, why does a ballerina make dancing look so simple? Because she has practiced her art form for 20 years, 5 hours a day. What makes a good teacher seem such a natural? She’s practiced for years and trained.
Here’s Where Grandmothers Come Into the Picture
You can help in several ways, even if you are using remote technology like Skype or Zoom or your iPhone. Here are some ideas for you:
Set up a time every day where you join up with your grandkids for however long you agree on. Even if its five minutes, use the time in a meaningful way to either chat with each child or you share something. You may want to brainstorm with your own children to figure out what might be most helpful for that family.
For example, one young mother might wish that you call at nine o’clock in the morning for 15-minutes so she can get her work organized with her workmates. Another mother may prefer you to call at 5:00 p.m. while she is trying to make dinner and read a story to her kids. There are so many ways this exchange can happen.
I know a fitness instructor who does dances and does some exercise with her grandkids while their mom takes some private time. I’ve heard of grandparents sharing family photos and generational stories while parents make dinner, make phone calls, etc. The possibilities are endless. Let’s say you are a retired teacher; you may do better with assisting a grandchild with work than your child who became an accountant.
A Fairy Godmother of Sorts
Remember, your child or children need you. The situation most families are facing is stressful and tiring and can appear unending. You are one of their keys to happiness.
Think of yourself as a Fairy Godmother, as you really are just that. Take your Enchanted Self wand out of the closet and start offering your talents, strengths, and hidden potential to these people you love so dearly. If you have a significant other in your life, drag him or her into the plan also. There is always room for one more Enchanted Being’s stepping in to save the day!
Have you connected with your grandchildren during COVID-19? Let us know in the comments below.
Sometimes friends and colleagues call me ‘The Enchanted Self.’ That’s because as a psychologist in private practice for over 35 years, I’ve developed a form of positive psychology called The Enchanted Self. I’m not enchanted, but I do have many ways and ideas to help all of us feel better through all stages of life. These methods help us to recognize our potential, regardless of our age, to grab on to our talents and find again and again the emotional energies needed to be creative, resourceful, resilient, and to live joyfully.
In two minutes share with the ‘girl’ from my books, The Truth, Diary of a gutsy Tween and Secrets, Diary of a Gutsy Teen, and my films, the ‘girl’ who has no name, as she is all of us. Share with her as she goes from despair to elation as we most, not only in today’s pandemic but as we travel through life. Enjoy seeing the joy she finds loving and connecting once more and bring it home to your and your grand-kids. Watch the film at: https://vimeo.com/