Grandparenting during the Pandemic
BY KEN CANFIELD, PH.D.
Many grandparents have reported that the pandemic and social distancing from their grandkids, other family members, and friends, has been very difficult. It’s especially tough for those who live alone. And that’s no surprise.
That’s one insight from a recent survey we conducted at Grandkids Matter, where we asked grandparents about their habits, thoughts, and feelings surrounding the pandemic—before and after. Although the data is still being analyzed, there are some revealing insights into the initial results.
88% of the grandparents chose positive words like: blessed, wonderful, joyful, grateful, awesome, and honored.
As you might expect, when we asked grandparents for a word or a phrase about their feelings as a grandparent before the pandemic, the responses were overwhelmingly positive: 88% of the grandparents chose positive words like: blessed, wonderful, joyful, grateful, awesome, and honored.
The remaining 12% of responses expressed more negative feelings and commonly used words like overwhelming, challenged, exhausting, and painful. We can assume that those grandparents are facing challenges like raising their
One of the main purposes of the survey was to get a picture of how grandparents are (or were) handling the social distancing and travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, and there were some significant insights surrounding a question about how the pandemic has changed their relationships with their grandchildren.
- 42% of the grandparents agreed that their relationship with their grandchildren “stayed the same.”
- 31% of the grandparents reported that their relationship with their grandchildren “became stronger.”
- 27% reported that it “became weaker.”
A few more specifics related to this question:
- The “became weaker” group also tended to score lower in health, well-being, and family/life satisfaction scores; they were more likely to feel depressed, tired and hopeless.
- Younger grandparents (age 45-54) were significantly more likely to “become stronger” in their relationship with their grandchildren compared to older grandparents (age 64-72).
This survey has reinforced the fact that our grandparenting role is often affected by other areas of life—our physical health, mental outlook, emotional state, and so on. And if we see ourselves in these survey results, good or bad, it’s up to each of us to take the unique situation before us, with all the various blessings and challenges, and make the best of it.
How have grandparents done that? One of the open-ended questions in the survey addressed that: What behaviors or activities have been most helpful to you and your household in keeping perspective during the pandemic?
Here’s a sampling of some of the responses we received:
“Living in gratitude.”
“Staying away from network news.”
“I love that we have had more time to actually be a family without the hustle and bustle of school and after-school activities and ballet.”
“Boating and Netflix!”
“Simple pleasures: ice cream breaks. We can swing again! Picnics, blowing bubbles, short road trips.”
The most common responses can be summarized in these three suggestions:
Stay busy & active with hobbies, music, cooking, reading, walking, riding bicycles, gardening, and so on. Maybe it’s a chance to learn something new!
Do what you can to stay connected to your grandchildren and other families: Zoom, Facetime, texting, and any other modes of communication.
Hold on to what is meaningful. Find ways to reinforce the vital importance of virtues and practices like faith, hope, friends, and community.
This pandemic has required some big adjustments. We’ve missed out on some events and experiences that we looked forward to. But even in the darkest of times, please don’t give up. Stay faithful and engaged. Your grandchildren need your consistent presence and love in whatever amounts you’re able to give.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ken R. Canfield is the founder of Grandkids Matter. Dr. Canfield started the National Center for Fathering in 1990, and became a grandfather in 2006, which prompted him to found Grandkids Matter, www.grandkidsmatter.org. He’s a joy-filled granddad of 14 grandchildren.