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Grandparents and looking after grandchildren during coronavirus

coronavirus childcare

Updated 14/05/21.

With lockdown gradually easing across the country, many grandparents will be excited at the prospect of spending time with (and even hugging) their grandchildren again. So what are the rules and can you provide childcare? We take a look at what the restrictions mean for grandparents in the UK.

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When will grandparents be able to see their grandchildren indoors in England?

The government's announcement on lockdown easing was great news for families who were desperate to see their loved ones and some grandparents have been able to reunite with their grandchildren, albeit outdoors only. From Monday 17th May the government has confirmed that in England people will once again be able to meet up indoors (up to six people or two households) and overnight stays are permitted, meaning grandparents will be able to visit their grandchildren again, and not have to stay outdoors. 

Many grandparents will also be thrilled with the news that hugging family and friends will also be allowed from this date, but people are being urged to be sensible with this, and some Gransnetters are still planning on exercising caution when it comes to close contact like this.

Here's what Gransnetters have to say about the news

"I will be hugging DS, DIL and DGC when they arrive here on May 31st. All the adults will have been double jabbed. Also DD, in our bubble, who we will see on May 28th. DD has always been on hugging terms but we haven't hugged or kissed the rest of the family since last February. We did see them last July, but we placed hugging and kissing outside the limits."

"I shall carry on as normal. No one I am desperate to hug."

"I used to be embarrassed when someone who was hardly more than an acquaintance wanted to hug me. I'm sticking to family members - and I'm quite selective as to which of those!"

"There is some advice on the BBC website about hugging. Keep it to family and close friends and not everyone. Turn your face away as you hug but this is very close contact so will carry a risk."

"I will just be hugging my AC and my darling DGC. Ditto my DS and BIL whom I'm seeing on Friday for the first time in over a year."


Are grandparents allowed to help with childcare in England?

Yes, during lockdown grandparents were allowed to form an exclusive childcare bubble with their grandchildren's household in lockdown, meaning that they were able to babysit them. For struggling parents who relied on grandparents for childcare so that they could work, this was a godsend. With restrictions lifting on Monday 17th May to allow up to six people (or two households) to meet indoors, this also allows grandparents to visit their grandchildren indoors socially. For more on childcare bubbles, see our page here.


Top coronavirus conversations


Can grandparents in Scotland provide childcare?

Yes. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said during lockdown that people are allowed to provide childcare "where absolutely necessary". However, it was advised that children should go to the grandparent's home, rather than grandparents to the child's house, in order to look after them.

With the next set of restrictions easing in most of Scotland from Monday 17th May (Glasgow and Moray will remain in tighter level 3 restrictions due to a rise in cases - more on this here), this allows people to meet indoors (the number of people meeting must not exceed six and should be capped at three households maximum), so grandparents can provide childcare as well as visit family for social purposes. The Scottish government has said that you don't need to social distance when visiting friends or family indoors, but to be cautious with this.

The Scottish government's parent portal ParentClub gives more detail on childcare during coronavirus. 


Can grandparents in Wales provide childcare?

Yes, informal childcare such as that provided by grandparents and other family members or friends is allowed, although it's suggested that "this form of childcare should only be used when no other methods are available".

However, Wales is currently in alert level 3, which means you are not currently allowed to mix indoors socially unless you're in an extended household.

For more information on seeing other people, see the Welsh government website


Can grandparents in Northern Ireland provide childcare?

Yes, while indoor mixing of households is not currently allowed, childcare is exempt from this, meaning grandparents can provide childcare for their grandchildren. See more on the Northern Ireland restrictions here.


I'm vulnerable - should I shield from my family?

No, the government has stated that shielding is no longer necessary in England. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should take extra precautions though to minimise the risk to yourself. The government has a section on their website here with more information on this and what you can do to protect yourself.

Despite restrictions easing across England, some vulnerable people will still be choosing to stay home, or will feel understandably uneasy about the return to relative normality. In the meantime, the risk of loneliness can not be underestimated so please do read over these loneliness resources if you are feeling particularly frustrated or worried about how isolation has affected you. If you fancy some virtual company, do join in our conversations, particularly Soop's Kitchen or look out for our daily Good Morning threads.  



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How do I maintain the relationship with my grandchildren if I can't see them?

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 as hard as it has in the past year. While we all understand the need to practise social distancing during this pandemic, we also know how important it is to keep in touch with friends and family. Being apart from them for a prolonged period of time, or not being able to see them as often due to the travel restrictions still in place, can be extremely 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.


How to use technology to keep in touch with family

grandparents and grandchildren coronavirus video calling

If you aren't able to be there in real life due to distance or because you're still being cautious, that's not to say you can't find other, creative ways to keep the bond with your grandchildren. 

Eight 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 up a Nana Deliveroo service

"I prepare their supper twice a week and provide a Nana Deliveroo service...dropped at the doorstep. This way they engage with me about what they might like via WhatsApp." 

2) Talk books

"The primary school-age grandchildren are prolific readers and we enjoy chatting about what they're reading and which books they'd like to read next."

3) Encourage budding artists

"They post me their drawings. I put them on the wall and show them my 'gallery' when we FaceTime." 

4) Set them a challenge

"I have made a video for my grandson showing him how to make a paper aeroplane. It'll keep him out of his mum's hair for 8 minutes."

5) Let them set you a challenge

"My grandchildren have made videos of them doing Joe Wicks' videos to motivate me to exercise. The chitchat and cries of, 'You can do it, Grandma!' make me laugh!"

6) Take them virtual shopping

"I FaceTime my grandchildren with a pretend virtual shop where I place certain things in their sight for them to 'buy'. For example I might have chocolate biscuits for sale. I tell them the cost and help them do some mental arithmetic. We have great fun!"

7) Competitive playdough sculpting

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

8) Channel your inner Susie Dent

"I send them a Word of the Day via Whatsapp. I choose daft words that they will enjoy repeating, but which will hopefully add to their vocabulary at the same time. 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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