Connecting the generations during lockdown

One of the hardest things about life in lockdown has been not seeing friends and family.

My children’s grandparents and other older people they know from church fall into the ‘vulnerable’ category, so it’s already been weeks, but we know that we’re unlikely to be able to meet in person for a long time yet. This is hard for us and hard for them. Grandparents and friends are missing seeing the little ones grow each week, and the power of hugs and kisses, play and special chats is a great loss to them.

As a parent, I’ve worried especially about the children too – how can they maintain that relationship with their grandparents when they can’t see them? I don’t know about you, but I find trying to video call with a toddler almost impossible, and even with my older children, it’s not the same as cuddling up to Grandad for a story, or enjoying a drink and biscuit with Peggy after church.

Lots of grandparents we know are scheduling a short video call each day where they read a story or a chapter. This was hard for my children at first because they get restless sitting at the laptop. We’ve found that having have some colouring to do while they listen really helps. I know some people are using puppets and special voices, and they say it’s as much fun for them as it is for the children! I also really appreciate my in-laws being flexible with timings. No two days are the same in our house!

My parents are making a short voice recording of a poem at the end of each day. The idea is that the children can listen to it before bed. We don’t manage to listen every bedtime, but the brilliant thing about a recording is that we can tune in whenever is convenient. They are choosing short, manageable poems, and the kids often do a little voice recording back to tell them what they liked about it. It’s helped to remove the difficulty of sustaining a phone conversation, but means that both sides feel in touch every few days.

Other grandparents I know are setting daily art or craft challenges, doing a Lego build-along together online, or a bake-off. Having these activities is not only fun, but both parties can chat about what they’re doing as they do it, and this means the conversation keeps going. My dad has taught my niece how to make bread online, and she’s now making lunch for her family some days!

There are some amazing stories of church intergenerational links being pursued and strengthened. My children have been drawing pictures and writing little notes to deliver, and my friend’s kids are phoning the older people in their church each week. We’re so excited to see what happens when we do get back together again after lockdown – even though we’re apart, in some cases these friends have never been so connected! Another church I know of is encouraging their older members to connect with new families by committing to pray for them during lockdown. What a blessing, as a busy and overwhelmed parent, to know that a faithful elder is blanketing my family in prayer!

I’m so grateful for the older people who surround our family. I really miss them, and my children do too. Parenting through this time has been a roller coaster in so many ways, and grandparents and older friends are like an anchor – even from afar.

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