The Sage Connection

Another consequence of the pandemic:  Increased kinship care by grandparents

Passing along some strategies and tactics for caregivers


COVID has reared its ugly head once more with a vengeance.

In Thurston County, the number of cases is growing daily. Hospitals are filling up again, masks are mandated and schooling is uncertain. More than 43,000 children in the US have lost their parents due to the virus, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Enter the Grandfamilies – grandparents suddenly faced not only with the trauma of losing their own children, but now taking on the future of their grandchildren, many of whom are too young to be vaccinated.

This particular group faces several challenges – technology, working from home, schooling from home or, if the grandchildren do attend school and are under the age of 12, the possibility of bringing the virus home to their grandparents.

The children too are facing an uncertain future. Loss of their parent(s), changes in location of their home and school and fear of what’s to come if something happens to their grandparents are new concerns for them.

Settling into a multigenerational family can be a difficult situation in the best of circumstances; the COVID pandemic has had a far-reaching impact and affected us greatly.

One thing the older generation has going for itself is a resiliency that comes from a lifetime of facing down and overcoming obstacles, loss and pain, while still putting one foot in front of the other and going on.

And today we have many support systems in place to help. Schools have contacts for those who need advice on how to cope. Mentors and tutors can often be found by simply reaching out to family, friends and neighbors with children in the same age group.

AARP, Thurston County Area Agency on Aging, Catholic Community Services  and Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services have helpful information about Kinship Care resources and caregivers. But if you are to take care of others, it is also important to take care of yourself.

According to the publication, Grand, the following strategies and tactics can be very helpful.

  • Stay connected and reach out if you need more support.
  • It’s okay to ask for help and there are many short-term therapies that are very effective.
  • Do what helps you feel safe and secure.
  • When things feel unpredictable, build in routines, maintain structure and consistency for you and your grandchildren to counterbalance this.
  • Separate what’s in your control and what isn’t.
  • Rely on things that have helped you get through tough times before.
  • Consider activities for your mind, body, and spirit that keep you focused on your well-being and that let you pause and breathe.
  • Remember to exhale.
  • Video chat with your close friends.
  • Connect with your spiritual beliefs and community.
  • Use your support networks, both informal and formal.
  • Join an online support group.
  • Take free online technology training through AARP or other programs.
  • Use expressive arts – writing, art, music, and dance- as outlets. Listen to your favorite songs. Read a meaningful poem. Watch a dance performance. Create a crafts project. Start a gratitude journal.
  • Take a quiet moment for yourself. Meditate on your own or by using an app like Headspace, Simple Habit, or Calm.
  • Challenge yourself to stay in the moment.
  • Make your space comfortable and cozy.
  • Spend time outside and enjoy nature.
  • Prepare your favorite food.
  • Remember to laugh when possible.

And hug – long and tightly and often – hugs can heal when nothing else seems to work.

Kathleen Anderson writes this column each week from her home in Olympia.  Contact her at or post your comment below. 


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