Unexpected Advantages of Sheltering: How Grandparents and Special Friends Can Help By Reaching Out to Young Children Remotely – “Nana and Pops Olympics”
by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.
I was yearning to connect with my young grandchildren and to help their parents, who I figured were overwhelmed with caretaking 24/7 because of school closures. We started “hanging out” and this has been a wonderful gift for me. – Zanny Milo, grandmother of 8 who live in 2 different states
As stay-at-home orders are implemented across the world, many grandparents, aunts, uncles, or special friends are acutely feeling the loss and social isolation of being away from the children that they care about. During times of stress and hardship for families, the natural impulse is to gather to help and offer support, but that avenue is temporarily cut-off by the Covid-19 virus. At the same time parents of young children are stressed with working from home, exhausted with the demands of home-schooling, or just needing a break from the non-stop energy needed to be a parent to a young child who is suddenly thrown out of the usually daily routine. Grandparents, other relatives, and friends may be frustrated by not being able to step in to offer childcare, support, and also to enjoy the company of their special children.
When I suggest that they use FaceTime, What’s App, Zoom, Google Hangout, or Skype to connect remotely with these children some respond that they don’t know how to do this. While this may feel like a daunting computer task to learn, I will confess that a month ago I was clueless about Zoom’s possibilities. Now I rarely go a day without 4-5 Zoom calls. Whether you use FaceTime, What’s App, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or some other telecommunication platform that I haven’t heard of yet, it is well worth challenging yourself to learn one of these platforms and use it to connect with grandchildren or young children you have special relationships with. After all, since you are secluded at home, you do have the time to learn something new and very likely the parents of these children would be happy to help you learn. Not only will these children love and look forward to this connection with you, but it will give their parents a break and time for self-care, or some important call they needed to make without their children being present. Moreover, you will feel the joy as well as increased intimacy as you see the children’s responses.
Simply calling to chat will get old quickly as children are home missing daily routines and activities. Instead, join the “Nana Olympics” or “Pops Games” to help teach young children counting, math, reading, art, science, writing stories, or sharing a hobby of passion with you.
The document linked below is about some interactive ways you can use video calling tools to connect and play with young children. You can even help enhance their learning of academic concepts and social and emotional competence. Once you get started, you will likely discover all sorts of activities you can make up. The video calling approach follows the principles of Incredible Years Parenting Programs, that is:
- to be developmentally appropriate and geared to child’s interests
- to be child-directed using narrated commenting to enhance language development
- to encourage expression of feelings through emotional coaching and pretend play
- to reinforce social skills such as sharing, waiting and helping through social coaching
- to enhance problem solving and confidence through persistence coaching