March 20, 2020 – The words will chill us for the rest of our lives: “social distancing” and “self-isolating.” As grandparents raising grandchildren, you may feel as though you already have some experience with this, for instance when your old friends lost touch as you started parenting the second time. And now this stay-at-home directive.

Physical isolation! Not social isolation.

Here are three things you and your grandchildren might try to stay connected to people outside your home. You will probably need to make time to try these before they pay off. Could you trade 30 minutes of news viewing to dedicate to making friendly calls by phone or FaceTime? Are you willing to try to master unfamiliar technology? (Or, if you’re already tech wizard, could you help a friend learn Zoom?)

Join a Facebook group

The Ties that Bind group if made up of Oregonian grandparents raising grandchildren and is moderated by Joan Dingle, author and experienced grandparent herself. You are welcome. See the link on this page. Or find your own group. Hey, start a group!

Master a new, free technology

From what we hear, parents are taking over the video conferencing software Zoom, using it for online play dates and virtual parties. A free version of Zoom allows three people to gather virtually for 40 minutes at a time. For details of how to set up Zoom calls, go here.

New to this? Zoom seems to be the easiest software to learn, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make sure there are no hammers within reach as you start. The helpless feelings of trying to learn something new from an impersonal robot or machine will drive the smartest person crazy. Be kind to yourself. Take it step by step. Resist the urge to shortcut or skip ahead in the instructions. Maybe give yourself a week as your learning curve.

One reason your children will love Zoom is that it will allows them freedom of movement since they don’t have to be holding the phone– for example, dancing together. They can also share screens for games or learning activities.

Create a Circle of Care

A Circle of Care is a do-it-yourself way to check in on your neighbors and have them check in on you. The goal is to connect the needs of people to local community helpers and services. A Circle of Care can be any size—an individual, or a group. If you are starting yourself, a circle of 3-5 people all checking in on each other is a good size.

Circles of Care are not being set up in a uniform way. Do what works best for you and your community.

You can help others whether you are fit and able to run errands or you are staying at home. If you are an organizer, you can help with coordination of a local group while other people are out doing the physical activities. You can start with a simple note you leave in a mailbox: “Hello, my name is _____________ and I live at ___________ . Is there anything you need? Just want to chat? Call or text me at ____________ .”

Our sponsoring organization, Age+, has more information to get you started here.

In the end, maybe, Ma Bell is still best

Do you remember the AT&T slogan, “Reach Out and Touch Someone?” Text messages lack that warmth and timbre of a voice. They are easily misunderstood. And you are not an emoji.

At this writing, Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, has had a daughter in self quarantine. “To tell you the truth, I had some of the best conversations with her that I’ve ever had,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters. “We talked about things in depth that we didn’t have time to talk about in the past or we didn’t have the courage or strength to talk about in the past–feelings I had, about mistakes I had made along the way that I wanted to express my regret and talk through with her.”

Your relationships with other family members or your birth children may make this seem impossible. But these are new times. You could make a call.