How to Be a Great Virtual Grandparent

7 ways to strengthen the grandparent-grandchild bond while sheltering in place

Nothing is “normal” these days. While we don’t yet know how bad COVID-19 will ultimately be, we do know that people over 60 are at particular risk for complications, should they become ill. That has many grandparents sheltering in place and unable to be physically with their grandchildren. However, many are making extra efforts to maintain a regular presence in their grandkids’ lives during the pandemic, albeit in a different form. As a grandparent myself, I understand how difficult it is to be apart. So I reached out to friends and colleagues to see how they were coping. Here are some ideas they shared which you can use or adapt to strengthen connections with your family: 1. Create New Bedtime Rituals Each night as he’s being tucked into bed, 4-year-old Teddy (with his dad’s help) calls grandma. Teddy recaps his day, and grandma Elizabeth tells him a story, helping to settle him down for sleep. Although they live just a few miles apart in Ottawa, Canada, Elizabeth hasn’t seen Teddy or his siblings (ages 8 and 18 months) since their city’s shelter in place mandate started in mid-March. This new evening ritual helps keep them connected. How You Can Do This

  • Arrange a time with mom or dad to call just before bedtime, bath time or another quiet time in the evening.

  • Ask the child some open-ended questions, for example “What did you do today?” which promotes conversation, rather than “How was your day?,” which can often generate monosyllabic answers, says Elizabeth, a retired teacher.

  • Have a “Once upon a time…” story from your child’s life ready to tell — most kids love hearing tales of when their parents were about the same age; it helps strengthen the bond to know they’re just like mom or dad. Elizabeth also sends old photos to Teddy and his older sister, which creates prompts for further storytelling.

  • If you’re not adept at impromptu storytelling, you could substitute a beloved book or two to read, perhaps one that mom or dad loved as a child.