Considering Grandparents Day and National Assisted Living Week 2020 this week, we thought it was important to discuss resources to help children cope with grandparent aging or anyone else important who may be aging around them. While this is a natural stage in life, for many children this may be their first experience with an aging individual and the changes they are witnessing may be confusing to see and process. Start the conversation early. One great way to help children and teens as well as cope with someone who is aging is to provide preparation. While it may be small things that change initially such a seeing a grandparent taking more medications or traveling to visit family less but rather family may make more trips more often to them, these subtle changes provide an opportunity to begin this conversation. Providing just enough information early on can help substantially as these transitions continue rather than waiting until significant changes in a grandparent have occurred or a crisis arises. One great tool for navigating these conversations can be through reading books. Books naturally allow a child to take a step back and view something from a different perspective. This can organically create a conversation as a child relates what he or she is reading and seeing on the book pages to their own life. If a child does not ask questions, a parent or caregiver can easily help a child make connections through prompting questions and conversation. These are a few books in particular that can help parents and caregivers talk about grandparent aging. Sunshine Home by Eve Bunting is about a little boy going to visit his grandmother at an assisted living facility after she has broken her leg. The story addresses his feelings about this change as well as how the parents are feeling, too. The Tide by Clare Helen Walsh is a story about a little girl and her grandfather. The Tide is a nice introduction to dementia for younger children and provides a basic explanation that families can build upon. Miss Tizzy by Libba Moore Gray is a sweet story about an older woman who has a great relationship with the children in her community. The story gently touches on the idea of aging and illness.
Kids and teens may also benefit from playing an active role in helping with aging grandparents. This can often vary depending upon the age and ability of the child as well as the functionality of the aging grandparent.Taking these two factors into consideration, a conversation with the child or teen may help address the child’s comfort level in their role. Examples of this might include having a teenage girl paint her grandmother’s nails or having a teenage boy watch a movie with an older uncle. Younger children may be able to make decorations for a grandparent’s room at an assisted living facility or visit during mealtime with a grandparent to keep them company and encourage quality time together. Aging can look different in every individual and making children aware of these changes in an age-appropriate way can foster coping in children and teens.
If someone in your family is facing this situation, we would love to help!