With schools in England re-opening this week, many grandparents have found themselves being asked to provide more regular childcare again. While for many this is a welcome part of their week and involves precious time spent with their loved ones, for others, going back to 'normal' may feel too soon. Anxiety about spreading or catching coronavirus is still a concern, and with children interacting with far more people, grandparents are worried about the risk this poses not only to them, but also to others they may be caring for or come into contact with. With this in mind, here are some tips from gransnetters on how they're planning to make the school run safer.
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Many breakfast and after school clubs across the country will be opening from Monday, although they may have limited capacity. For many families, who rely on grandparents for childcare and the school run, this is the only way they are able to make sure their children are looked after. However, with social distancing still in place, grandparents do need to be part of their grandkids' household's childcare bubble in order to legally provide childcare. If this applies to you, read our tips below on how to make the school run safer.
In our 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. We all want to get back to normal, but it's natural and sensible to be cautious to begin with.
Many grandparents are finding themselves providing childcare again, this time with the extra anxieties of preventing the spread of coronavirus. We know from previous research that over 50% of our users provided regular childcare for their grandchildren (pre-Covid-19). Are grandparents still going to be doing the school run as schools open up? And how will families manage without the support of the grandparent army? What precautions can grandparents take to make themselves and their grandchildren feel safe?
Luckily, we have the collective wisdom of the Gransnet users to draw on (over 350k users a month) and they are generous with sharing their tips on how to make the school run safer.
"They seem to have thought of lots of things to avoid the crowds and keep the flow going."
Most schools will have implemented things like one-way systems, slightly different times for collection and other new rules. Make sure you've seen the most up to date newsletter with instructions and guidance on where you need to be and when.
"I will be keeping my distance at the school gate but this shouldn't be a problem as I don't know anyone and the classes will be having staggered exit times."
For some it is very tempting to go back to the social chit-chat of the usual school pick-up, but it's still very important for parents, grandparents and other caregivers who are doing the school run to socially distance.
"I heard today that we should clean the car every time we use it. This is for people giving lifts and I suppose that includes taking children to school. Wiping of door handles was specified."
Cleaning contact points can help to stop the spread of the virus. Always make sure you have disinfecting wipes and hand sanitiser with you, so you can easily wipe down the surfaces your grandchild touches, for example door handles, dashboards and seatbelt fasteners. It's also good practice to do this in the house too, especially with things like door handles and tables.
"I would certainly wipe down their hands before they get into the car, and yes, changing out of school uniform once they get home seems sensible too."
If you're anxious about the spread of coronavirus in your grandchild's school, having a spare set of clothes for them so they can change out of the uniform they've been in all day may help to ease your concerns.
"I feel with children you have to supervise things like hand washing to ensure they are doing it thoroughly and for long enough."
By now we should all know the advice on washing your hands more frequently with soap for 20 seconds to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Children, particularly younger ones, may not always understand the importance of this so a good tip if you're providing childcare is to watch them to make sure that they're washing their hands for long enough. You can find the NHS's advice on washing your hands correctly here.
At the start of the pandemic, the government suggested washing your hands to the length of 'Happy Birthday' twice to ensure you were doing it for long enough, so you could incorporate a song or two into the routine for the little ones to make it fun and more memorable for them when they are washing their hands alone.
"Without constantly nagging the grandchildren I am going to make sure they wash their hands thoroughly using separate towels."
If you're anxious about catching the virus from your grandchildren, this gransnetter suggests making sure that you have different towels available to them so they can wash their hands, and not potentially infect the towels that you use yourself.
"These are your precious grandchildren and you want to give them positive experiences with you, not fearful experiences."
Little people pick up on our worries and if they don't verbalise it, could react emotionally, with bad behaviour or in some other way. Where possible be honest with them about your feelings but also reassure them that measures are in place to keep you and them safe.
"It puts us grandparents into a difficult situation. In the event of an outbreak, should we then cover childcare? Or will the parents be allowed to work from home? That would be difficult for some employees. Tricky!"
If there is an outbreak in your grandchild's year group, or in the local area, it's important that you and the parents have some sort of contingency plan in place. It's best to discuss in advance what will happen and who will look after the children if you are concerned that the risk to your own health becomes too great.
"I love my grandchildren dearly but I am not doing childcare at the moment. I think it is too risky."
If you think the risk is too great, parents should respect your worries and you should not feel pressurised or obliged to look after your grandchildren if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe doing so.
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.