COVID Expanded Grandparenting Role

With many families continuing to struggle to balance online learning, childcare closures, and working from home, the role of grandparent has changed dramatically for many older adults. Some seniors have reluctantly isolated themselves from their families due to underlying health conditions, but many more have stepped up and even moved to provide hands-on help with the daily care, and education of their grandchildren.  Older grandparents may be feeling the physical, emotional, and even financial strain of taking on their new and much-expanded grandparenting role. 

According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, a Northeastern University survey found that a third of working parents with children under the age of 5 were relying on grandparents for child care when schools and day-cares closed.  Because of the demands of online learning with all its technical challenges combined with the physical work of preparing meals, changing diapers, bathing, and trying to get kids outdoors and off their screens, the grandparents are exhausted. 

Families without grandchildren have also seen more young adults moving back in with parents where there is more space. Working or learning from the family home also comes with the comfort of loved-ones nearby to lean on for emotional support and some regular home-cooked meals.   

All this reliance on family can be complicated and certainly isn’t free from a few difficulties, including risk assessment differences or varying eating and sleeping habits. But the pandemic has also provided a unique opportunity for older adults to be involved in an intimate and meaningful way with their grown children and grandchildren.  If there’s one thing we should have all cultivated during this unprecedented time is patience, along with a healthy dose of forgiveness and appreciation. 

As the holidays wrap up and school resumes, online or in person, grandparents will most likely be called upon again to offer their time and caregiving and grandparenting skills.  Keeping a positive mindset, listening to one another’s worries and stresses, and making time for everyone to have a break will help get families through another round of isolation.  

Read more about how to navigate the joys and challenges of being a grandparent today in Author Jane Isay’s latest book, Unconditional Love.