COVID-19, Family, Interview

Top Tips For Grandparents During Troubled Times

When Leslie Zinberg became a grandparent, she wanted to share the magical experience with others.

“You have these little kids that are seeing the world with fresh eyes, beginning anew. As the grandparent, you get to experience them seeing the stars, or seeing a firetruck for the first time.”

Zinberg is an interior designer and the co-founder of Grandparentslink, a website “where fun loving and inspiring Grandparents explore life.” Zinberg created the website with her friend Kay Ziplow and it features advice and inspiration for grandparents around the world.  

“It’s important for grandparents to take care of themselves personally so their kids and grandkids know their lives are valuable,” she said. “And honor their lives.” 

The site features articles about health and well-being, fun activities to do with grandchildren, recipes, book recommendations, mindful moments, arts and crafts, and more. It has become a go-to for many grandparents who are seeking ways to strengthen their relationships with their family members, and sustain a meaningful personal life for themselves as well.   

“You’re a grandparent and you’re thinking, ‘What can I do with my grandkids today? How do I make the connection stronger?’”

Exploring ideas and sharing

Zinberg was inspired to start the website when her first grandchild was born. 

“Being a grandparent was brand new to me. I was loving it. I couldn’t believe how strong the connection was with my grandkids and how much I wanted to contribute. I thought, ‘There aren’t a lot of grandparent websites out there. Maybe I can do something for everybody.’”

Zinberg and Ziplow publish articles on topics for grandparents that are not explored elsewhere. 

“We think, ‘What can we bring to our readers that maybe they haven’t seen before?’” she said. “Let’s talk about the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law connection that nobody wants to talk about. I am fortunate to have a very good relationship with my daughter-in-law, but that is not true for all. We do a little humor. We really work on self-care, because if you’re not feeling good about yourself and who you are, then it’s hard to be good to others.” 

Grandparentslink also features articles on virtual grandparenting, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic has kept many families apart. “Many people can’t see their grandkids, so it’s all about how you can connect virtually,” she said. “How do you keep that up? How do you have your grandchildren really wanting to see you during the week and keep that up? We offer articles that highlight good apps and activities during this surreal period in our lives. You can try to play hide and seek while online. Or, bring out the puppets as a way to connect with the kids.” 

In late 2019, Zinberg published a book with friend Pam Siegel called, GRANDPARENTING: RENEW, RELIVE, REJOICE,  52 Ways to Mindfully Connect and Grow with Your Grandkids. The book offers real-life activities with an understanding of how mindfulness elevates the cherished grandparent-grandchild relationship.

 “It’s divided into different sections— growing yourself, respecting others, tuning in to your body, experiencing the present moment, and meditations. What we have found is that it’s not really just for grandparents. It’s for parents too, and it’s for anybody.” 

Tips for grandparents during troubled times

To support grandparents during this time of uncertainty, Zinberg offers some tips:

1) Get outside: Go outside and take pleasure in nature. Even just taking a walk around the block. Getting outside of your house is really important right now! It can be in the garden, going through a park, or around the neighborhood. Taking a walk with your grandchild can also be pretty wonderful—looking at the flowers, stepping on the grass, and just appreciating each other.

2) Begin anew. Try and look at something with fresh eyes. Appreciate what’s out there. Children naturally possess wonder and curiosity. They see things without a preconceived bias. Sometimes we forget about the wonders that are out there. It’s great to go out and say, “Look at that moon!” 

3) Set an intention: Each day figure out what you want to achieve that day. You have to have a purpose for your day. It can be as small as “I’m going to exercise” or “I’m going to clean three drawers.” Or “I’m going to call my close friend and check on her.”

4) Practice patience: A lot of us are in the same house all day long. My husband and I are lucky enough to each have our own offices. I am not used to him being around this much. He’s not used to me being around. What we’ve had to learn is to practice patience. We have to learn how to dance around each other, leave each other space, and not step on one another. 

5) Know the rules and set your own: With grandchildren, you’ve got to get along with their parents first and have a good understanding with them, and appreciate their rules. When you have the grandkids in your house, you also have to set your own rules. 

6) Know when to plug in and when to unplug: It’s important to know about technology, because if you don’t know and you can’t relate, then that’s not so great. Keep up with technology. But at the same time, when you’re with your kids and grandkids, you need to unplug, so you’re really communicating with each other. 

7)  Respond rather than react: Think about what you’re saying or doing before you react. It’s so easy right now to just react. There are so many issues at play, and we’re all locked into our ideas.  

8) Pause a moment: I encourage people to P.A.M.—It’s the acronym for Pause a Moment. Use PAM to calm down, and to make better behavior choices.

9) Listen: Take time to listen to others.  We love this Alfred Brendel quote in our book, “The word ‘listen’ contains the same letters as the word ‘silent’.”

10) Mindfully eat: Eat slowly and appreciate what you’re eating. Mindful eating teaches us to savor each bite.