Of all the hardships imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, few are as poignant as the reshaping of relationships between children and the grandparents who love them. Across America, where more than 70 million people are grandparents, efforts to prevent infection in older people, who are most at risk of serious COVID-19 illness, have meant self-imposed exile for many. At the opposite extreme, some grandparents have taken over daily child care duties to help adult children with no choice but to work.
Grandparents have had enough. They want to see their grandchildren. A life in seemingly endless lockdown and isolation from grandchildren is not how grandparents want to spend their golden years. But adult children don’t want to risk exposing an older, more vulnerable generation to the new coronavirus during a family visit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that eight out of 10 deaths from COVID-19 are in people aged 65 and older.
This is grandparenting amid the COVID-19 crisis. For my wife and me, becoming grandparents meant a hurried drive across middle America — 1,500 miles in two days. It meant being barred from a hospital visit, then maintaining two weeks of self-isolation in a rented house before we’d eventually be allowed to hold our grandchild or hug his parents.
Sheltering in place with your family means more opportunities to share meals, play games, and possibly drive each other a little batty. The extra hours of togetherness are also a good opportunity to collect oral histories. Whether you want to dive into family lore or record a snapshot of life in the era of COVID-19, there are several ways to set yourself up for sympathetic listening and enthusiastic sharing on all sides.