How to Be a Digital Grandparent

More people than ever are being affected by quarantines. We’re all at risk, but older populations put themselves in even more danger than most by breaking stay-at-home orders. But bonding time with those youngsters is incredibly important, and we all know that going back is impossible. So what's a dedicated grandparent to do? Until this mess is over, buffer the blow by being the best digital grandparent ever.

Start With Video Chats

Technology has changed a lot over the decades. Not too long ago, or so it would seem, video chats were nothing more than science fiction — part of an incredible, space-age future too far out of sight to ever be real. We might not have moving sidewalks to get around or flying cars congesting the skies (yet), but we do have Jetsons-quality video chat. If you don’t already have a good platform, it’s time to get acquainted with one. Skype, Zoom and FaceTime are all great choices and all have free options.

But how do you connect with kiddos over video?

Try these fun and interactive activities:

  • Read a bedtime story. Grab a book off the shelf and share it. Make it a weekly or nightly ritual. If you have older grandkids, you might consider having a digital “book club.” Choose a book to read each week and then “meet up” virtually to talk about it. Go for those funny voices, add sound effects. Mail them a book and have a copy for yourself so you can share the same library and really go for it.
  • Bake cookies together. Two homes and two separate batches can make one memorable experience. Depending on the kiddos’ ages, you may want a parent helping on their end, making it a fun tri-generational activity. While you're waiting for them to bake, sing songs together or play a game.
  • Do crafts. Have anything fun or creative up your sleeve? Pull out the paper, pipe cleaners, glitter and beads, and have the grandkids do the same. It’s time to create something memorable. Need some ideas? Browse Pinterest or Highlights. Send them a kit and keep a matching kit at your place and then work on them together.
  • Teach a skill. What do you know how to do that no one else does? Can you crochet, knit or sew? Maybe you know a second or third language that would benefit the next generation. Or maybe you know how to build the best pillow fort. Impart your wisdom while you have a captive audience but remember that participation on their end will aid retention and also help build their interest.
  • Share about the past. Your grandchildren likely have no clue what the world was like when you were little. Share a funny or interesting story and let them in on a piece of your history. Show them pictures of your parents and be the bridge between the generations.
  • Host a dance party. Choose a song and you all dance—seated if you need to. Then they choose a song and you all dance. You'll learn what they love and they'll learn to connect with some classics. If they're songs you can sing to, so much the better.
  • Go for a walk together. The advent of smartphones makes this easier than it ever could have been. Now we can take our video chats on the road and walk together. You can still explore the neighborhood, discussing discoveries and learning together with a little creativity and a good data plan.

Find Little Ways to Show You Care

What defines you as a person? Do you have any interests in common with your grandkids? Find a way to do something thoughtful in a way only you can. Let them know you’ve been thinking about them by sending a care package filled with handmade items. Get creative: send videos from a pet, put together a family cookbook or organize info from your family tree into a multigenerational scrapbook. Make it fun and personal.

Not craftsy? That’s okay! You could also do some online shopping and deliver a little pick-me-up to their address. Share music, poetry, art, and movies together to find things you can love together.

Watch Movies Together

There are apps now that will let people watch movies together from a distance. One person hosts and has control over the pause and play functions and both parties have a chat window so they can share the experience. Watch2gether, Netflix Party, TwoSeven, and many others create a virtual viewing platform that helps people connect over their films.

Master a New Skill Together

There are thousands of online classes at places like Skillshare, Domestika and others. What if you pick out a class together and share the lessons with each other, talking about the progress you're making in your new skills and helping one another to grow? From dance moves to drawing to learning bird calls, there are bound tobe things that you can both love and share together. This idea has the added advantage of leveling the playing field. If you're both new to something, no one feels like they have to be the teacher. You can be peers.

Quarantines might force physical distance for a while, but with a little creativity, you can still stay connected. And although this isn't likely to last forever, the skills you pick up may help you maintain the grandchild/grandparent bond for many years to come.

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5/4/2020 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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