Virtual Visits with Grandma
By Diane Mangano-Cohen
For twenty-five years I have had the privilege of being a grandmother to six amazing individuals.
Until recently I have enjoyed weekly visits with my two youngest grandchildren, but social-distancing has changed all of that. There is no more once-a-week childcare for my adorable twenty month-old granddaughter, and no more special time with my curious kindergartener-grandson.
Not being able to hug them has been very unsettling for me. I also noticed that my daughter and her husband were struggling with juggling work from home and caring for two children who require full time attention. Their regular childcare helpers were “Out” and all four of them are now literally “In”.
After a few weeks of social-distancing, I realized it was time for a little creativity. I missed my grandchildren and our routines, and I knew their parents needed a break from the constant supervision.
The answer I came up with? Finding virtual experiences that my grandchildren and I could share using the internet.
To design our virtual visits, I used what I knew about my grandson’s current interests as my starting point. I made suggestions and then we brainstormed together on virtual trips to cities, museums and animal habitats. At my grandson’s request, our “visit” to Paris included showing him where Lafayette’s tomb is–he is a big Hamilton fan! I had not known that Lafayette was buried in Paris and together we learned that dirt from Boston’s Bunker Hill is in his burial plot.
I also learned when visiting one of our travel locations it’s a great way to talk about the world and local customs of the people. I share how far away the location is and how long a plane ride takes to provide some context. This is a time-intensive process, but with my own social-distancing, this is a great way to keep me busy and keep my mind stimulated.
Some days my grandson is more attentive than others. Being flexible and being able to switch gears helps us both.
Some visits include art projects after watching the specific artist’s techniques, giving us both a creative outlet. Sharing our work at the end allows us more interaction. For our “Mondrian” project I used pre-cut black construction paper and crayons and my grandson did an amazing job using only Legos.
When researching a recent topic, I do a Google search by typing in, for example: “Best place to virtually see spiders.” This search resulted in a huge variety of websites and YouTube videos. I selected several videos to watch to find the one I felt would best hold my grandson’s interest. I am learning a great deal by viewing these videos to find the age-appropriate and interesting presentation, and have found the whole process very engaging.
Timing my visits with his sister’s nap means both parents have extra time to work or just be off-duty – truly a win-win-win.
Technology has been key to making this happen, and we are fortunate to have both computers and iPads available. We have used both on almost all virtual visits. I can see his face and I know when I need to re-gain his attention with a simple, “Buddy, you still there”? What my grandson needs most is company. We have conversations; but sometimes I’m just a trusted, reassuring voice while he plays with Legos, magnetic tiles or draws.
Video-visiting with the twenty month-old is very different. She tugs at my heart strings when she hugs or kisses the screen. We dance, sing, read stories, eat meals together and just look at each other.
Last night I also video-visited with my oldest granddaughter who is about to turn 25. Working from her apartment in Dallas proved to be too confining, so she is now staying in a Tiny House in the Mountains of Colorado. I also send her a daily “Good Morning” text, which I can tell brightens her days.
I’m really pleased with all the different ways my “virtual grandparenting” has evolved – and like any activity done from the heart, it has provided me with more benefits than I give.