So, we are into our 3rd month of social distancing and the situation isn’t becoming much easier. Although the restrictions have been lifted slightly, we still need to keep our distance from those outside our own household. To do this with our loved ones who we do not live with, feels increasingly difficult and totally unnatural. Particularly, for young children who do not fully understand the reasons for social distancing, this can be very trying.
1 – Your children may have spent a large amount of time with their grandparents before the lockdown measures were brought in and since, have not been able to be with them at all. This is bound to have had an effect on them and they will undergo a form of grieving that they will not understand. It’s important to bring extra reassurances and support by continuing to give comforting hugs and quiet chat times before bed while snuggling up reading stories and playing games together is also important, being able to give your children a few minutes to share disappointments or upset about not seeing their grandparents and little friends is crucial. We often find it difficult to see our child’s upset when we can’t do anything to change things. An acknowledgement and hug makes things better for all age groups.
2 – Another way to ease the situation includes bringing the technology we have around us into play. To see one another on a screen is the next best thing to sitting with your loved ones having a cup of tea and a chat, it may take a bit of getting used to at first but it is definitely a fantastic way to connect. Children love it too, although you may find they can take over the call! Equally if your children are very young they may find it hard to associate their grandparent’s voice and face with the screen and sometimes find it confusing, or they lose interest in the call very quickly, because this is a new way of being with their grandparent and planting a kiss on a cold glass screen just isn’t a substitute at all! So if this happens don’t ignore it, you may want to explain to your child that everyone in the family wants to see everyone else, but there are new rules to stop people getting poorly so we can all only hear or watch our relatives and friends at the moment. Equally a great aunt who hasn’t had children may not understand why your child doesn’t speak into the telephone or screen so explain, explain explain!
Your children’s general level of cognitive development will help you gauge where they are with social distancing. My own rule of thumb is, if your child understands the concept of how to cross a road safely they probably understand and can remember to social distance. The less they understand that the less able they will be to understand why people are wearing funny masks and not touching each other. At least they know what a car or a bike is, but it’s another level again, to try and explain that we are all being careful of something that is invisible! Plus, there’s a balance to be had between too much information that could lead them to become anxious verses them being in situations where they are constantly having to be reminded not to do something. eg., For those of you with four year olds, this is akin to them getting
scared because they think there’s a monster under their bed. Or teaching them to remember how to brush their teeth – and that’s only a twice a day exercise!
3 – By this point in our social distancing situation, you will be able to meet together outside, which could feel like things being back to normal, from your child’s point of view. While a 7 or 8 year old will understand they can meet but can’t touch or stand too near their grandparent, you have little to no chance of a younger 3 – 6 year old child remembering to social distance, it will seem very strange to them, and they may become upset or unsettled after these visits. A little quiet five minute chat before or after seeing the grandparents may be just the thing to avert things! If you have a child under 5 years, be alert to the fact their brains haven’t developed enough to understand anything about social distancing, they will simply feel upset and hurt that their grandparent who usually gives them a hug and kiss has to turn away from them. They will not have the capacity to understand so you need to hold onto them tightly so they feel the reassurance and warmth of your love.
4 – You could find time for you as a family to check in with the Grandparents and then have your more usual chat on a 1:1 another time to fully catch up with them. If your elderly relatives don’t have the facility to video call the telephone still works and is often the more ‘normal’ way for older people to stay in touch, remember learning new tech things can make us all feel a bit anxious, so keep to the things they find easiest for them. Calling them up on a regular basis, email or send them some photo’s in the post of what you’ve been getting up to gives your parents and your in-laws something to look forward to too. Or, make a personalised photo card/postcard to send to them for instance. It will brighten their day.
Make family mini me’s with the children to send to Grandparents. As you may not be able to see each other in person at the moment, you can send them a mini version of yourselves to visit instead! Print off a full-length photo of each of you and stick to some cardboard (e.g. back of a cereal packet) and cut around the outline of the person. Then make a fold of cardboard to stick on the back so that it stands up. Get everyone to write a little message on the back of each one to make it more personal.
5 – Get the children to make something for their Grandparents, it will help them feel connected. Kids love getting crafty, so with whatever you have around or from the recycling make something you can send to them. A picture made from different bits of a magazine torn up into colours for a rainbow perhaps, paintings or drawings.
Older children may like to write them a letter, or a poem. Whatever it is they can
make for their Grandparents one thing is certain, it will bring a smile to their face and be received with love.
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