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Grandparents and looking after grandchildren during lockdown

coronavirus childcare

Updated 24/07/20

Latest: New rules on wearing face masks in England come into force today (24th July 2020)

Here's what Gransnet users say about it:


Can grandparents provide childcare for their grandchildren?

Despite some confusion over this due to Boris Johnson's comments on Friday 17th July, grandparents are only able to provide childcare if they are part of a bubble with their grandchildren's household. As one of these bubbles needs to be a single adult household, this can only apply to bubbles that comprises of a single grandparent or parent. 

Official guidance since the 4th July stipulates that (in England) two households of any size are now able to meet up in any location. However, unless they are one of those in a support bubble (single adult households only) then they are still required to socially distance.

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Gransnet users who, pre-Covid 19, looked after their grandchildren on a regular basis find themselves tantalisingly close to finally being able to go back to their old routines. Not only have they been missing the precious time spent with their grandchildren, but they are also looking forward to helping out parents who have been struggling till now.  

In our recent survey it was revealed that 41% of grandparents say lockdown has made them feel less close to their grandchildren, and 28% say they are worried about rebuilding the relationship once lockdown is over. 


What are the current guidelines for grandparents?

At the moment, people who live on their own are able to stay overnight with another household (currently this applies to England). This allows single grandparents to visit their extended family and reunite those grandparents who have so far been unable to see their grandchildren. The government says these measures are part of an effort to alleviate loneliness for those who are isolated. However, as this only applies to single-adult households, it excludes grandparents who are in a couple.

How do the new guidelines affect grandparents?

The new guidelines, that came into effect on 4th July, mean two households of any size are able to spend time together.

Prime minister, Boris Johnson has said, "In that spirit we advise that from 4 July, two households of any size should be able to meet in any setting inside or out.

That does not mean they must always be the same two households.

It will be possible for instance to meet one set of grandparents one weekend, and the others the following weekend."

Opinion is divided on the forums about this latest developments though. On the one hand some grandparents are sceptical: 

"It's a trap, clearly. Parents wanted back at work, schools unable to look after the kids - suddenly, there's concern for 'lonely' people. So (like lambs to the slaughter) it's grannies to the rescue. They really must believe that we're all fools!" Hetty58

While others are more positive:

"I am being allowed a garden visit to give my granddaughter a great big hug next week! I can’t wait. I’ve not hugged anyone since 20th March and I’ve also had a lockdown birthday. I will take whatever I am allowed" KnittyNatter


Current top Coronavirus-related conversations:

When were grandparents first allowed to start seeing their grandchildren?

On 1st June, lockdown was eased to allow groups of up to six people to meet outdoors in England as long as strict social distancing guidelines were followed. This meant that grandparents who had so far been kept from their grandchildren were finally able to meet up with them in an outdoor setting. But questions remained: what exactly did the new social distancing rules mean for grandparents in the UK?  Would they be able to provide childcare during the coronavirus pandemic? What measures are being put in place to keep older and more vulnerable grandparents safe once children go back to school? 

"I'm so excited to be able to see my grandchildren again, and while we may have to keep our distance, it's another step closer to being able to hug them again eventually." FruityGran


Do the new guidelines mean I can see my grandchildren?

Yes. Since 4th July grandparent households are able to meet up in any setting with that of their grandchildren's household. But social distancing must still be observed. At the moment only grandparents who live on their own and form bubbles with their grandchildren's households are allowed to relax social distancing guidelines - allowing them to hug their grandchildren. For those who live a great distance away it also means that they are able to make the journey and stay overnight. For some, whose families have welcomed new additions during this time, this will be especially poignant. 


Can I babysit my grandchildren?

  • Live on your own? Yes, if you are not shielding you are able to form a bubble with another household which could be that of your grandchildren. You will not be required to follow social distancing so practically this allows you to babysit them. 
  • Live with a partner or other adult? No, although hopefully you won't have long to wait. From 4th July restrictions have eased to allow you to see them but you are still required to keep your distance. 
  • Shielding? No, although from 1st August, shielding will be paused which should allow you to do so, although the government does seem to be encouraging people to make their own risk assessment. 

In the meantime though, if you still have a few weeks to wait, are cautious about a second wave, or are a long-distance grandparent, some gransnetters are getting round being separated from their families with some virtual creativity...  

Many parents are now working from home and although this means that at least an adult is present, many have found that juggling a full day's work alongside childcare/home-schooling is quite a challenge. Luckily many grandparents have come to the rescue by using technology to distract or even teach grandchildren via video calls. 

"I am finding online children quizzes which I send to my son and then we FaceTime with them - one for a 10-year-old grandchild, one for a five-year-old."



More information on childcare

As mentioned above, the government has announced that from the 4th July grandparents will be able to resume childcare duties.

There is concern on the Gransnet forums about the health risks of providing childcare One gransnetter said: "I would love to get back into regular childcare (guidelines permitting) but with my grandchildren back in nursery or school in a week or two, I'm nervous about the risks we run when we have no idea who they'll have been in contact with."

Some gransnetters are also worried that they will be forced to break rules to look after their grandchildren: "My daughter is a single parent of three. As a teacher, she has been allowed to work from home but is needed back in school from mid-June. I've always cared for the 2-year-old and done the school run and after school care, etc. What is she supposed to do now if I don't take up where I left off before lockdown? Any decision I make has to be balanced against breaking the rules and possibly putting myself and husband at risk."

"The fact is, regardless of how fit, active, otherwise healthy, the older one is, the more depleted one's immune system." welbeck


What about grandparents who are over 70 or are shielding?

Older grandparents (those over 70 regardless of medical conditions), as well as those who are 'clinically vulnerable' are now being encouraged to spend time outdoors with members of their household, or, if they live alone with one person from another house. The government website says: "This can be with members of their own household or, for those shielding alone, with one person from another household. If individuals wish to spend time outdoors, they should take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping 2 metres apart at all times. This is because we believe they are likely to be at the greatest risk of serious complications from coronavirus."

However, those who are shielding will see a relaxation to the rules from 6th July. From then can meet up in groups of no more than six. And from 1st August, the government has assessed that shielding will no longer be necessary at all.

In the meantime, the risk of loneliness and damage to mental health from these restrictions can not be underestimated so please do read over these loneliness resources if you are feeling particularly frustrated or worried about being in continued isolation. If you fancy some virtual company, do join in our conversations, particularly Soop's Kitchen or look out for our daily Good Morning threads.  


What do the new guidelines mean for grandparents in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? 


The Scottish government's message still remains that people should stay home as much as possible,  unless they need to go outside for a limited number of reasons. Up to 8 people from two different households can meet up outdoors, providing they stay 2 metres apart. People are being urged not to meet people from more than one other household each day to minimise the risk. Find out more and what the regulations mean for you here.


The Welsh government is urging people to 'stay local and keep Wales safe'. People from two different households are to meet if they are outdoors and stick to social distancing guidelines. There is no maximum number of people mentioned. People who are meeting must also stay local, and while there's no specific legal limit on what's considered 'local', their website says: "as a general rule, we consider anything within about 5 miles of your home to be local." For more information on the official guidance in Wales click here

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, as long as they adhere to social distancing, a group containing up to six people who don't share a household can meet up outdoors. And since 13th June, people who live on their own can form a ‘small support unit’ with one other household and meet indoors. For more information, please visit the government website here.


How do I maintain the relationship with my grandchildren if isolated?

With 44% of those we surveyed saying that they are worried about the relationship between themselves and their grandchildren during lockdown, it's clear grandparenting has never been so hard. While we all understand the need to practise social distancing or self-isolation during this pandemic, we also know how important it is to keep in touch with friends and family. With many of us falling within the ‘high-risk’ category, this time can be particularly difficult, especially if you’re usually the one looking after the grandchildren while their parents are working. Being apart from them for a prolonged period of time, with no clear end in sight, can be very difficult.

But not to worry, as our users have found, there are still ways to help out and stay connected to your grandchildren, without putting ourselves - or them - at risk.

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Staying in touch for your mental health

As we get older, our risk of being isolated - along with the mental and physical toll this can take - increases. Many of us are used to living alone, but now, with self-isolation and other restrictions in place which prevent us from going out and meeting up with friends and family, for most people this is a totally new way of living. In fact, 37% of our surveyed users said they are concerned about their mental health and are taking steps to keep positive and stay connected to others.  

“I’ve never been any good at thinking about myself - I always need to be ‘looking after’ someone else. First my children, then my nan, then my mum and dad, then my grandkids. This is why I’m mentally flapping that there’s no contact, no-one to do anything for.”


How to use technology to keep in touch with family

grandparents and grandchildren coronavirus video calling

The good news? This is probably the best time in history to find ourselves isolated. We can arrange for deliveries of food and other essentials through online supermarkets - if relevant, you can find out how to register yourself as a vulnerable customer here - and we can keep in touch in myriad ways. Apart from the obvious - calling and texting - there are so many ways social media can be used to bring families together. Many gransnetters recommend the following:

  • family Whatsapp groups - a daily check-in works for many families
  • video calling through FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or similar 
  • photo-sharing on Facebook
  • virtual pub quiz evenings (everyone online with their choice of tipple (juice for the kids obviously and a bag of crisps). Search 'kid-friendly pub quiz' for ideas. 
  • communal family meals on video - set a time for your Sunday lunch and all log on then to 'eat together'

“I hate not seeing family but thank goodness for modern technology - we text, phone, FaceTime and Skype and exchange photos!”

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Five ways to entertain grandchildren from a distance

Whether it's reading books, telling stories, sharing jokes, watching TV 'together' at the same time or doing virtual quizzes, there are lots of things you can do to help stay connected. Some great ideas from our users include: 

1) Set them a challenge

"I have made a video for my grandson in the US, showing him how to make a paper aeroplane. It'll keep him out of his mum's hair for eight minutes. To my other grandchild, I am sending letters with pictures to colour, and will follow up with songs, poems, jokes, recipes and things to make and do."

2) Send them some plants

“I have sent an individual letter to my grandchildren with a packet of vegetable seeds to plant (the ones they like) with some jokes and will do this as long this goes on. Everyone likes to get a letter.”

3) Mirror their activities online

“If you are able to get hold of something like play-doh and your granddaughter has some, you could challenge one another to copy what each of you are making over a video call.”

4) Play guessing games

“I'd have a load of props just out of sight… daft hat, weird ornament… make her guess what's in your hand… each new thing will make her laugh.”

5) Help them with their homework

"My grandsons are doing some lessons at home, and I contribute by sending them a Word of the Day via WhatsApp video. I choose daft words that they will enjoy repeating, but which will hopefully add to their useful vocabulary at the same time - if they remember them... It's good for me too - browsing the dictionary every day for new words is very educational!"

Take a look at our forums for more on this topic:

Disclaimer: The health information on our pages is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Gransnet would urge you to consult the NHS coronavirus website if you are concerned you or someone you know has the disease.


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