Grandparenting during the pandemic: Is it safe to babysit?

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

With social distancing measures changing all the time, it can be a little confusing as to what you can and can’t do. It’s been made very clear that older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are at higher risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19, but what does that mean for families who rely on grandparents for childcare? Here’s what we know so far.

Can grandparents babysit their grandchildren?

“It’s a grey area,” Dr Ross Walker tells Starts at 60. He says under current regulations grandparents should only be looking after their grandchildren if their parents are essential workers or they live in the same household. If you don’t fit the criteria, Walker recommends keeping your distance until restrictions are lifted.

Further, he adds the virus can be spread by asymptomatic carriers, explaining that children are more likely to be asymptomatic. This means a toddler in the care of a grandparent could unknowingly infect them. But it can be a challenging time for those that are used to seeing their grandchildren regularly. The current social distancing measures are taking a particular toll on one Starts at 60 reader who usually looks after her four-year-old grandson two days a week.

“I have gone from looking after my four-year-old grandson two days a week to not seeing him at all,” the grandmother wrote. “I lost my husband last year and the grandkids were my lifeline. It’s very lonely.”

Relationships Australia NSW Chief Executive Officer Elisabeth Shaw previously spoke to Starts at 60 and said: “It can lead to grandparents losing a sense of purpose and meaning if this was a core activity in their lives. It could [also] lead to a greater sense of isolation, [as] younger generations are still trying to work and might be involved in homeschooling.

“It can exacerbate a sense of uselessness for some who already worry about that. Others who have more of their own projects will fare better on that front.”

How to stay connected to your grandchildren

As we continue to adapt to social distancing, Walker strongly recommends keeping in touch with loved ones via the phone, using video applications. “I would maintain as much visual communication as possible,” he says.

Although seeing the grandkids on a computer or phone screen isn’t the same as being there in person, it’s still worthwhile. Skype and FaceTime give you the opportunity to see each other’s expressions and surroundings, making you feel as if you’re there with them. You can read your grandkids a story at night, sing songs or play games from hundreds of kilometres away. With older grandkids, you can communicate via Facebook Messenger or keep up-to-date by viewing and commenting on their Facebook posts.

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