When Covid hit, Alison was on maternity leave. Her parents live abroad, and while they don’t see each other in-person often, the extended time between visits took its toll on her children. She tells us her story…
The pandemic impacted everybody in many different ways. For our family the hardest thing was the separation from family, and in particular for our children, the separation from their grandparents.
Grandparents can play a very important role in children’s lives, and often have a positive impact on their social and emotional development. They can be great role models, offering different perspectives and insights into family heritage.
The impact of Covid on the day to day hustle and bustle of busy family life, meant that many children had reduced or no contact at all with their grandparents.
The Impact of Separation
I was on maternity leave when the spread of Covid began and the UK went into lockdown. While video calls helped to keep us connected to my family abroad, it was difficult for my children and they really felt the distance. My son was deprived of the same opportunities my older daughter had enjoyed by not being able to physically bond with his grandparents.
My eight year old daughter has a very strong bond with my parents and missed them very much. We had lots of tears during the separation. When the travel restrictions were finally lifted, she was over the moon. There were tears of joy when they came to visit, which were soon followed by over-the-top excitement! When the time came for them to fly back home, she became very anxious, and worried that she wouldn’t see them again for a long time.
It was very different for my son, who was 19 months old when they finally came to see us. He was confused to start with. Although, he’d see them regularly on video calls, the physical presence proved to be too much for him, and to start with he wouldn’t let them touch him. It took a couple of days before he felt settled with the presence. My mother found it particularly upsetting when we took him to his nursery one afternoon and he ran with a big smile and open arms to his key worker. It was in that moment that I really felt the price of the long separation.
Accepting and Adapting
Accepting that life is ever changing and that we all have our own experiences and challenges can help to heal and move on.
Since my parent’s visit, we have moved to a happier place and enjoy and appreciate our interaction online. It’s a shame that my parents have to watch the children grow up over the camera, but at least we have that – it’s far better than relying on emails or phone calls! Their next visit is booked and all being well, we will be spending Christmas together, and we can’t wait.
Communication: Be Creative and Have Fun!
Communication is key to building any successful relationships. The bond between children and their grandparents can be built over time by sharing day-to-day activities, playing games and celebrating special moments together. If you can’t physically be together, then be creative and have fun.
As well as writing letters, emails or talking on the phone, there are lots of ways children can interact online with their grandparents.
Here are a few ideas we have tried:
There are plenty of tips on the internet for games to play virtually depending on your child’s age, but it doesn’t have to be planned - all children respond well to being silly, so get down to their level, play games, have fun and make each other laugh!