Giving thanks for Grand Friends

Nov 20 2020

Giving thanks for Grand Friends

“Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being.”
–Margaret Mead

Grand Friends Day is a special time on our campus. There’s something heartwarming and life-affirming in seeing the unconditional love that grandparents and grandchildren have for one another.

GrandFriends Day 2018

Grandparents, and older relatives and friends play a crucial role in the lives of children. They provide youngsters with a sense of time and continuity. Children learn that they come from a long line of predecessors who have seen their own difficult times, and life goes on in spite of the problems we face.

While there’s humor in the old adage that the reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they share a common enemy (sorry, parents), there is some wisdom there. Grandchildren can sometimes go to their grandparents and older relatives for advice on topics they may feel uncomfortable broaching with their parents; grandparents can dote on their grandchildren in a way they may not have done on their own progeny. For many reasons, this multi-generational relationship offers something unique to both parties.

Sadly, it’s yet another opportunity lost due to COVID-19. Yes, life will go on, but not having grandfriends and grandchildren celebrating together at Keystone presents a loss for the entire community.

Being with grandparents also provides one of the best elements of the holidays. Nevertheless, as we know, the elderly are one of the most at-risk groups for the pandemic. So, what to do this year during the holidays? A blog post from healthcare company Solv called Visiting Grandparents During COVID-19 Holidays provides some helpful hints for how to handle the holidays this year.

Writer Michael Barber begins his post by recommending that families assess the risk for being with grandparents in general. He lists many illnesses and advises readers to consider whether to visit at all if grandparents have any of these pre-existing conditions.

Once a family has decided that they can be together, they should prepare themselves by taking the usual precautions like masking, physical distancing, and limiting gatherings. In addition, the younger generation may consider getting tested to be absolutely sure that nobody is asymptomatic and infectious.

Barber also cautions parents to prepare children for the reality that this year’s visit may be different than other years. There may be less cuddling and there will be mask-wearing. This may pose difficulties for all parties so readying everyone beforehand may ease the pain a little.

If you can visit, families may consider outdoor activities like going for walks in the park. How about taking those delicious Thanksgiving day-after leftovers and making a picnic?

If visiting in person seems too risky, and that is certainly understandable, creating virtual get togethers, albeit not the same, may offer some solace. While the last thing any of us may want to do is spend more time on Zoom, perhaps having some planned online activities together will ease the sadness of being separate.

There are now a multitude of games online that families can play together. I recently watched my wife have a blast playing virtual Bingo with over 90 undergraduate students. Maybe this is the year that everyone watches “The Sound of Music” or the annual Thanksgiving Day football game together via Zoom. Perhaps parents and grandparents share appetizers and grown-up time while cousins play Minecraft. While we may not be able to be in the same room, we can find a way to be together. It’s not the same, but at least we can see one another.

When it comes to the food, maybe the computer is on so grandparents and grandchildren can compare recipes and cook simultaneously in different kitchens. Pre-dinner prayers and expressions of gratitude can be expressed around the virtual table.

I know this year’s holidays will not be the same. We will miss large family gatherings, and even if families find a way to be together in smaller groups, it will lack the closeness and spontaneity of other years. Perhaps, however, we can salvage some time together by using technology to decrease the distance between our loved ones and us. COVID may prevent us from being in the same room, but we will not allow it to keep us from seeing one another.

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