Why it’s important for your kids’ wellbeing to stay connected with grandparents in the digital age

How to stay connected with grandparents in the digital age

by Zara Mohammed |
Updated on

It's easy to lose touch with family – we all have such busy lives, especially families with kids. Loneliness Awareness Week got us thinking about grandparents who don't get to see their grandchildren as much as they'd like. We love our families dearly, but keeping in touch with loved ones may not be straightforward, especially if you have long-distance family or your older relatives aren't able to get out and about.

It's all the more important to stay connected with grandparents as they get older though, as older relatives are more likely to face isolation and loneliness – and according to research, children grow up happier when grandparents are involved in their lives!

We look at why it's so important to nurture these relationships for the benefit of both grandparents and grandchildren, share some of the ways 'silver surfers' are staying connected in the digital age, and how grandparents who aren't as tech savvy can still use technology to feel more involved.

Older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness

Nobody wants to think of gran or gramps feeling alone, but the NHS says that older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation – and this can have a serious effect on their health. They say: "People can become socially isolated for a variety of reasons, such as getting older or weaker, no longer being the hub of their family, leaving the workplace, the deaths of spouses and friends, or through disability or illness." And the older people get, the more likely they are to be affected, with Age UK saying that more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

Therefore, encouraging relationships between grandparents and your kids is really important and staying connected with grandparents can make a big difference. In fact, according to The Independent, "Researchers found that older adults who take care of grandchildren regularly were 60 per cent less likely to feel lonely than those who weren’t caregivers at all." – Now there's a good reason to ask grandparents to babysit if they're near enough and able!

Do children grow up happier if grandparents are involved?

It's not just about keeping grandparents happy – children share a unique bond with their grandparents, and one study by the University of Oxford that included more then 1,500 children found that well-developed relationships can help children be better at coping with traumatic life events. Conducted by Professor Ann Buchanan, the study shows that in families where grandparents played an active role and were highly involved in nurturing and mentoring grandchildren, behaviour and emotional problems were reduced. So if you're hoping for your little ones to grow up into well-balanced teens, this could be a great incentive to carve out plenty of time for them to spend with nana and pops, even if it is virtual quality-time.

Involving grandparents in your kids' lives early on can make a big difference, says Kimberly Agresta, a licensed clinical social worker and the co-founder of Englewood’s Agresta. She talks about how children can develop real emotional closeness to grandparents and see them as a source of strong social support. The more loving and supportive adults they have around them, the more secure and stable children will feel, she says.

If you're expecting a new baby or have just welcomed a newborn member to the family, you could celebrate your new baby with sentimental gifts for the grandparents. This is a great way to congratulate them on becoming new grandparents if it's your first child, and a lovely way to help long-distance relatives feel more involved and develop a bond. Since we're exploring ways to stay connected in the digital age, we love the idea of digital picture frames that can be updated by any member of the family via an app. Imagine a grandparent's delight at being able to share experiences and memories as parents upload new photos to mark special milestones!

How long distance grandparents can stay connected online

Grandparents in your family may not be struggling with isolation or loneliness, but that doesn't mean that they don't find it difficult if they're not able to stay connected or see grandchildren as much as they'd like due to living too far away. Age UK says that 1 in 3 grandparents don't see grandchildren regularly, and that new research on loneliness amongst older people shows almost a third (32%) of grandparents aged 65+ in Great Britain only see their grandchildren once a month or less.

Whether it is because they live too far away, have mobility issues or that there just never seems to be enough time to meet up, there's no denying that grandchildren will benefit from staying connected with their grandparents – and in the digital age, staying in touch online has never been more popular, even with older people. Grandparents who don't see their grandchildren, and especially long-distance relatives, are turning to tech to bridge the gap.

While it might seem that older generations find it challenging to keep up to date with technology, more of the older generations are embracing the internet and becoming more tech-literate to bring convenience into their lives as they age.

Social media and video calls have become popular ways of communicating and keeping in contact with loved ones since Covid-19, when sharing photos on Facebook and using apps like Zoom and Skype became indispensible opportunities for families to stay in touch during lockdown – especially for older relatives who had even more reason to isolate. According to Linking Lives UK, research by the London School of Economics has shown that these digital interactions bring families closer together. Voice-activated smart tech like Alexa also makes it easier for less tech-savvy grandparents to get in touch with loved ones online without having to navigate apps and websites on their phone, tablet or laptop. They can just voice commands and AI makes the call for them.

Find fun ways to build bonds with grandchildren online

Interacting online doesn't have to be short and impersonal. There are loads of fun ways grandparents can connect online with grandchildren in the digital age and develop those important close bonds. For example, video apps are ideal for reading bedtime stories to little ones, helping primary-school kids with their homework, and catching up with older children about their school day or what they're been up to at the weekend. Playing games online as a family is also a great way to have fun with kids on their level and develop meaningful relationships and bonds by enjoying activities together and having things in common.

Cloud-based storage means families can save and share as many pictures and videos as they want, whether that's via digital picture frames or apps designed specially for families to share special moments. Social media is also a great way for grandparents to enjoy feeling part of their family's everyday life by seeing their photos and videos. For grandparents who want to learn how to use social media to stay up-to-date with family online Age UK have an easy-to-follow guide on how to use social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (X).

Proud aunt to her teen niece, Zara Mohammed is a Digital Writer for Mother&Baby. She has 10 years freelance writing experience creating lifestyle content for various platforms, including pregnancy, women’s health, parenting, child development and child mental health, plus lots of fun seasonal family articles and celebrity news.

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