Grandkids Often a COVID Conundrum for Families

January 11, 2021 – The pandemic has exposed a new generational divide that puts baby boomers and their children at odds over safety, and grandchildren are often a point of contention.

Gen Xers have complained during the pandemic that their ‘boomer’ parents don’t take COVID-19 seriously enough and think they need to protect them and / or their children.

“I hear people complaining that their father will not be wearing a mask or social distancing or quarantine. They are not willing to have this grandparent with their children, ”says F. Diane Barth, a registered clinical social worker and psychotherapist in New York and Massachusetts.

When parents say they don’t visit to protect grandparents, elders often “get upset because they don’t feel like they need to be protected. There are baby boomer parents who don’t believe the danger is real or that they are in danger, ”says Barth.

But it works both ways. Some baby boomer parents are being cautious and have chosen not to visit grandchildren in person because they are going to school.

Other baby boomer grandparents find it safe to visit in person but complain about the rules their children have imposed.

David, 69, from New York, who requested that only his first name be used to protect his privacy, wanted to visit his daughter and granddaughter on her birthday in November. But when his daughter told him that there was no way he could go inside, he was surprised and upset. They have since met at a nearby park and shared the lighting of Hanukkah candles on Zoom.

Mike, a Midwestern baby boomer who spends his winters in Florida, recently complained that his daughter asked him to get tested twice and quarantine him before he could visit his young grandchildren. Mike also requested that only his first name be used.

Barth suggests that grandparents assess whether visiting grandchildren are worth the effort. “My thought is to make the adjustments to follow through on what the children / in-laws want so that they can be with their grandchildren.

While some grandparents may be tempted to lie and say they’ve quarantined, this approach can backfire and create trust issues, Barth says. “Even if you think your son or daughter-in-law is neurotic, now is not the time to do it. If your kids don’t trust you, your relationship will be in trouble, even with grandchildren.

Barth advises parents to be “really honest with themselves about the realism of their expectations.”

Then communicate. “I think being able to talk about expectations and conflicts is everything. I spoke to so many families during the holidays where the grandparents desperately wanted the kids and grandchildren to come and the parents thought maybe it wasn’t a good idea.

What worked is that the parents said, “We don’t want to disappoint you, but we don’t want the children or you to be in danger; can we figure out how to do this safely? Said Barth.

Newborn visit

Parents of newborns should be more protective of visitors, especially during the pandemic. “Newborns do not have the same immune capacity to fight infections as older children. Their immune system is still developing, which is why they do not receive their first vaccines until they are 2 months old. This puts them at high risk for infections and COVID-19 is no exception, ”says Ashlesha Kaushik, MD, medical director of pediatric infectious diseases at UnityPoint Clinic in Sioux City, IA, and Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

Grandparents who wish to visit newborns should start taking precautions at 36 weeks of pregnancy of the daughter or daughter-in-law. This includes quarantining if they have traveled recently, wearing masks, social distancing, hand hygiene and avoiding sick people and crowded places, says Kaushik, who is also a spokesperson. from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

She recommends staying at parents’ homes if possible, to reduce contact with strangers. If they want to hold the newborn baby, grandparents need to practice good daily hygiene – washing their hands, showering, and wearing clean clothes. They should never kiss the baby’s face and “it’s a good idea to wear a mask. If these practices are followed, the newborn will be safe. “

Children infecting grandparents

Children over 2 years of age can be silent carriers of COVID-19 and in some cases become very ill with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) and infect their grandparents, Kaushik says.

Parents can be very anxious to let their children meet in person with grandparents because the consequences of COVID-19 are so high. “They may think, ‘I don’t want to be the one giving my mom COVID or my child giving it to his grandmother,” says Charles Kalish, PhD, developmental psychologist and senior advisor at the Society for Research in Child Development in Washington, DC.

Parents of young children should also weigh the health risk of having contact with grandparents against the benefits of seeing grandchildren.

Some parents are okay with visiting grandparents as long as they maintain their physical distance, which can be a challenge, especially for young children.

“If the risk of contact is low and the benefit of seeing the grandchild is high, then parents have to accept some degree of risk because social distancing won’t be perfect at first,” Kalish says.

“Even if they prepare the child in advance not to run and hug the grandparent, the child may not remember to do it,” he explains.

If the parent cannot accept any risk, then “he cannot expect the interaction to go well because he will be so nervous that he will start screaming every time the child goes.” approach the grandparent or discipline the child, ”says Kalish.

While it may take a few reminders, Kalish reassures parents that children can learn new behaviors and that different rules apply in different situations.

Helping grandchildren with online school

Christine Brown, 65, of Aurora, OH, near Akron, lives about 20 minutes from her son, a police officer, and his wife, a nurse manager, and their two daughters aged 6 and 8. Brown has his granddaughters every Monday. to help with their elementary school classes online.

“My son was worried about my risk of COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic because I have Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease, but I reassured him that I was cautious,” Brown says.

She kept her physical distance from her granddaughters, and they all wore masks. Months later, they kiss but don’t kiss. “I think I’ve had enough of being scared, and they’re such insects.”

Brown thinks grandparents can help with distance school online.

“If you are retired, now is a great time for grandparents to ask parents, ‘How can I be of help? For example, if a child is supposed to do their math homework and the parents cannot be there to supervise, it could be done through Zoom, where the grandparents can watch the child do their homework, ”says Kalish.

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