Arranging A Socially Distanced Meet Up With Grandparents

It’s been nearly 3 months of lockdown and even before that we had started going out less due to worrying about infection. So when the news was broken that from 1st June we could meet others outside in socially distanced small groups our first thoughts went to whether it was possible to finally see the children's grandparents. We were worried about what age children can socially distance and could it be more stressful to see family with social distancing measures in place than not seeing them at all?

At the time of writing the lockdown rules in the UK allow:
  • Up to 6 people to meet outside in England and Ireland.
  • 2 households who live locally to meet in Wales.
  • Up to 8 people from 2 households who live locally to meet in Scotland.
In all regions it is stressed that meet ups should take place outside and 2 metres distance should be kept between people of different households.

With families desperate to see each other there is concern that young children will not be able to understand what is going on. That it might be too confusing, stressful or upsetting. At the same time children are really missing family members they haven’t seen in 3 months or more so we decided it was worth the gamble.

A child sitting on a picnic blanket with a lunch box in front of them
Having a socially distance picnic in the garden with grandparents

6 Tips for socially distanced meet ups with children and grandparents

Choose the location carefully 

We chose to meet with grandparents in our back garden for a picnic. We felt our house would be better than their’s because the children would still be allowed in and out of their house as normal and the only change would be keeping a distance from their grandparents.

We considered an open space, but without play areas etc open we felt this could be more challenging to keep the children entertained. Even going for a walk would be hard because of having to keep the distance between households with different walking speeds etc.

Prepare Children

I talked through what would be happening with my 8 and 4 year old in advance. I explained they wouldn’t be able to hug their grandparents and we played a few games to get an understanding of how far 2 metres is. I asked them if they still wanted to see their grandparents despite not being able to get close and they said “yes” because they missed them.

Manage Expectations With Guests In Advance

We all know what the rules are, but we also know that not everyone is following them in the same way. Before grandparents, or guests, visit make sure you and they have the same expectations. Do they expect to get a hug? Will they be bringing their own food? What will happen if it rains? It’s obviously better to agree what will happen in advance so there isn’t any confusion in front of children.

When my mum was due to visit the weather reports said it would probably rain. We decided we would go ahead anyway, but got waterproofs, umbrellas and wellies ready. The children found this just as much fun as the sunny day picnic, I'm not sure about my mum!

A toddler in a wet garden in a navy puddlesuit at a socially distanced 2 metres from an adult in a waterproof to stay dry from the rain
Prepare to get wet if meeting up with grandparents under social distancing rules and it starts to rain

Mark Out A Zone For The Guests

My children were really excited to have new people to talk to. Unlike adults (and teens) who can just sit down and chat my daughters were running around and wanted to show everything off despite having put out a picnic blanket for them to sit on. We had to keep reminding my 4 year old to keep her distance because she wasn’t paying much attention to where she was running.

We found one thing that worked well was to having some form of marking or barrier on the floor which the children shouldn’t cross. The physical reminder helped and it was easier once the initial excitement calmed down.

Don’t Expect Too Much From Younger Children

My 4 year old was able to understand she needed to keep her distance and the guests had to be outside, but she kept forgetting. I felt pretty sad when she asked if she could show my mum something in her room, but my daughter wasn't too bothered when we reminded her it wasn't possible. My 8 year old understood about distance, but didn't think through things like not touching the same objects and she wanted to show them a video on her iPod, but forgot they couldn't press play. My 18 month old repeatedly climbs on to the windowsill despite being told not to, there was no chance he would understand that he should stay away from people. We arranged the meet up to mostly overlap with his nap time and knew that I would need to run around after him and hold him if necessary when he was awake.

Keep It As Normal As Possible

We chose not to use face masks or gloves because we knew the chances of any of us being exposed to COVID-19 was very low. As schools and work places reopen this risk increases, but keeping a 2 metre distance and avoiding touching the same items should be sufficient to stop spreading of the virus if anyone had it without realising.

My children have been lucky enough to either be at home or for a few walks around quiet areas so they haven’t been exposed to people wearing face masks or gloves. For them it would have been strange and possibly scary to see family wearing these so we decided against them, but it could be an option for children more used to it.

Is It Worth A Socially Distanced With Grandparents and Children?

Based on our experience it is definitely worth seeing family with the social distancing measures in place. The situation can be easily managed with children 4 and older as well as younger children who can be held (or maybe strapped in a pushchair). Children who are 2 and 3 will require more attention and might find it harder to understand. As always you know your children best, but I was surprised how well mine adapted to the situation. I, on the other hand, found it really hard not giving my mum a hug when I hadn't seen her for months and I don't know when I will see her again. So you might find meeting up is more bittersweet for the adults than children.

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