***Updated August 2021***
When the Grandkids Go Back to School: How Can the Grandparents Be a Support?
Ah, the mornings are getting cooler and the leaves are beginning to change color! It must be back to school time! However, instead of my own kids, it’s the time when my grandkids go back to school.
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(**This post was updated during 2020 with some suggestions for helping during the pandemic. Some of those things may still be applicable to your area. Look for the green text underneath each section in parenthesis.**)
In the movie, You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan’s character says that Fall makes her want to “buy a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils.”
Well. . .I don’t just wish to do it. . .I ACTUALLY DO!!!
Yes, I’m one of those weird people that has to go out and buy “school supplies” when I see all the back-to-school sales. It feels like a new start – kind of that same feeling I get in January. I tend to set new goals, re-organize, and make lists for the holidays.
Each year when school starts, I start wondering how I can best support my children and grandchildren during the upcoming year. Education has always been high on my list, and I want my grandchildren to succeed in school and be happy doing it.
So, here are my top 15 things that make a difference when the grandkids go back to school
Attend Back-to-School Night or Meet the Teacher night
When the grandkids go back to school, it’s good to become familiar with the teacher and school policies. Then, if you have to pick up your grandkids from school, everyone will know you.
(You may not be able to go and meet the teachers this year, but you can still go to the school and get familiar with the new schedule and understand the rules for dropping off and picking up your grandchildren in case you are called on to help. At least know the names of your grandchildren’s teachers.)
Offer to volunteer at the school
Most schools are in desperate need of volunteers and there are so many ways you can help. The volunteer things are usually pretty simple – like listening to kids read or helping in the library – they mostly just take a little of your time.
(There will still be ways to volunteer even from home. Schools this year are going to exhaust all their resources trying to either keep the kids in school, keep the teachers in school, or conduct whatever online duties will need to be done. See if there is a way to help grade schoolwork online. Or maybe you can read with a small group of children over Zoom. Ask. . .I bet they will jump at the chance to have some extra help!)
Offer to help with homework
Most grandparents can at least help with simple homework. Personally, I like to stick to the elementary kids’ homework. Ha ha! In talking to some other grandparents, one of the most intimidating subjects seems to be writing. (Geez! I would have thought it was math – maybe that’s because math is MY nemesis!!)
Of those I talked to, many told me that they get hung up on those pesky grammar issues. Hey! Guess what? I cheat! There’s an app for that! 😉 I use Grammarly.com. It’s free to use (unless you want upgrade to a premium account). I simply added the Chrome extension on my computer and it picks up grammar issues on everything I write! Anyway, it can certainly be a lifesaver when you’re helping the grandkids.
If you need help with math or other subjects, Khan Academy is free and extremely helpful with distance learning. It will help you too as you are helping your grandchildren. You have to create a quick account – sign in as a parent. It will take you to a welcome page where you can click on “Learn what you can do at Khan Academy as a parent.” That will walk you through everything you need. If your grandchild already has an account, it will show you how to connect that as well.
(As with anything online, be sure you have their parents’ permission before signing up with anything online.)
. . .especially reading homework!
When my six children were young, they were each required to read for 20 minutes each night. During much of that time, I was working full time in an office. When I got home at night, I had to get dinner ready, give the kids baths, help with homework, sign school papers, and hopefully listen to everyone’s day. . .including my hubby.
Heaven forbid if any of us had somewhere to be like a meeting or music practice or a soccer game. Some nights, it was a miracle if I had a minute to even acknowledge my husband’s presence. Now, exactly WHEN was I supposed to fit in 2 hours for reading (20 minutes with each child)???
At that point, I would have been grateful for grandparents who could have helped in this area. So, when the grandkids go back to school, I feel like that is one place I can help! And I can read with those grandchildren who live near-by or even those who are far away.
(This suggestion works whether your grandchildren live close by, long distance, are in school, being homeschooled or whatever the situation. There are plenty of ways you can step in to help your grandchildren with their homework. You can listen to them read. Help with math. Proofread a report or essay. Again. . .just ask. I’m sure the help will be welcomed.)
New school supplies or clothes
You can offer to help buy school supplies or new school clothes. (Make sure that you have the parents’ blessing before you go on a shopping spree. Tread lightly and don’t overdo it!) If you have long-distance grandchildren, you can always send gift cards to their favorite stores. (My favorite is Target because I know that’s where my DIL shops the most. And of course. . .I shop Target way too much, because I save 5% across the board on ALL my purchases with their RedCard! Hey, it’s better than nothing, right?)
Special reminder gifts
You can give a special gift that signifies the start of a new school year. It could be something like a new backpack or book. For me, I like to give my grandchildren something that they see every day to remind them that reminds them that I am still here and thinking about them while they are at school.
Taking the kids on a special “end of summer” outing or throwing a back-to-school party could be an awesome tradition for grandparents. (My pick? Oriental Trading! Great party stuff at great prices and you can get 2 or 3-day shipping in many places!)
(You may or may not get away with doing something like this during the pandemic. If worse comes to worse, get on video chat and have ice cream sundaes with the kids. Ask them about their teachers and wearing masks. Get them excited for a new adventure. After all, we might as well make the best of it, right?)
Get a Calendar of Events
Make sure you get a calendar of major events for the school year as soon as the grandkids go back to school. That way, you won’t miss out on any of the fun things that you would like to attend.
(This may or may not apply this year during the pandemic. However, they may have more virtual events that you can attend or watch. As a matter of fact, it may make it possible to “attend” more events than you have in the past!)
But. . .a word of caution! Remember that what you do once may become an expectation for years to come. You also might want to think about if you make the Christmas program or Halloween parade at one school and not another, you may find yourself in a bit of trouble. So, make it clear that you are not playing favorites, but that every event may not fit into your schedule.
I try to get to as many things as possible to support all my Littles, but sometimes it’s a bit of a challenge as they go to five different schools!
Support School Fundraisers
On that calendar of school events, you may be on the lookout for any fundraisers the school is having. Supporting a school fundraiser is a non-intrusive way to help out. If you can’t really afford to buy something they are selling, you can offer to just donate a small sum. It doesn’t have to be a large donation. Every dollar counts for schools!
You may also consider just donating some children’s books to the school library. My mom used to hold a small book drive for the local elementary school in her neighborhood. She didn’t even have grandchildren attending the school. She simply asked her friends and neighbors if they had any gently-used children’s books that they would want to donate. Some of the neighbors would even go buy new books to donate. It was a great service that only required a little bit of time and no money.
(TI believe you could do this inside or outside a pandemic year. It’s a great service and the school will LOVE you!)
Go to the school to have lunch with your grandchildren. The kids really LOVE this! However, one word of caution! I would advise taking your own lunch as school lunches haven’t really improved since we were kids. Ha ha!
(So, this definitely is NOT going to work until things improve significantly. However, you could maybe provide lunch box notes for the moms to put in their lunch. Maybe it’s just a quick, “I’m thinking about you” note or a lunch box joke. The kids will be thrilled that you remembered them.)
If you’re available, help with pick up or drop off when needed. I sure could have used this kind of help when my kids were in school. I ended up relying heavily on friends and kind neighbors for carpooling.
(See the suggestion about back to school night above. The same applies. As long as the kids are in school, you may be able to help with carpooling.)
Check in with kids if they are alone before or after school. My grandmother lived with us in a studio apartment behind our house when I was growing up. Even though she couldn’t do much, she was able to walk in the house after I got home from school and just check in with me and ask me about my day. It was a nice feeling to know that there was an adult watching over me.
With all the technology available to us these days, you could even do this as a long-distance grandparent. Don’t let the distance keep you from hearing about their lives just because your grandkids go back to school and now they’re busy.
(This suggestion still applies whether we’re in a pandemic or not. As a matter of fact, the kids may be home more hours by themselves if they get out of school earlier than most years.)
If mom is busy but is committed to bringing treats for a class party or your grandchild’s birthday, you could offer to bring the treats for her. I know I would have greatly appreciated the help!
(Nope! Not going there! Just find out all the rules beforehand.)
Be the photographer
Go with the parents on the first day of school to take pictures. . .well, any school event really. That way, the parents can be in the photos with their children.
(This could still work as it lends itself well to social distancing if you stay outside.)
Offer to babysit
Once school is back in session, there may be less time that you get to spend with them. To get more time, you can offer to tend the grandchildren after school once in a while or on school holidays while the parents are working or running errands. . .or just taking a nap!
(This one is strictly a family decision. If you are not having in-person contact with your grandchildren, then this obviously won’t be an option. However, if you are, then parents could probably really use the extra help this year if they are working.)
Watch for Grandparents Day!
Many elementary (or primary) schools have fun activities for grandparents and grandchildren. This usually happens in September right after the grandkids go back to school. So, be on the lookout for it at Back-to-School night!
(This one could be interesting. It would be fun to have a virtual grandparent celebration with your grandchild’s class. Ask the parents or teachers if this is a possibility. We have some great suggestions for ways to celebrate grandparents day here.)
I have one last item on this list. . .Watch your boundaries!
While all of this seems helpful and kind, sometimes it can be seen as judgmental (as when buying things) or too intrusive (as in being around too often). You know your children. Try to be respectful of the things that they want to be exclusively just them and their kids. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t get offended over any of it!
(This year, I think you could make some exceptions to the boundaries. Isn’t that what we’re all doing?😉)
So. . .How Do YOU Feel When the Grandkids Go Back to School?
If you’re like me, having the grandkids go back to school gives me that same bittersweet feeling that I had when my own kids started school each year. We always had so much fun each summer, but it was always nice to get back to the routines.
I’m blessed with enough energy and time to be able to spend a lot of time with my grandkids each summer – sleepovers, activities, outings, Camp NanaPapa (our Grandma Camp), reading, and doing crafts together. So, when the grandkids go back to school, I like to still be involved in their lives and support them. It’s all part of building those, oh so precious, relationships.
If you would like more back-to-school ideas, please visit the blogs at the end of this post!
Cookies & Milk for Everyone!
Want More Back-to-School Ideas??
Here are some super moms who share their best Back-to-School ideas with you! They have all created some fun freebies to give you just for visiting. So, hop on over for some of the very best back-to-school ideas around!!
Lisa from Gather Love, LLC, – is sharing some yummy Ideas for school and workday lunches
Traci from The Frugal Work at Home Mom – Ways to save money on back-to-school shopping (P.S. Some of these tips will work for Christmas shopping as well 😉)
Beth from Moore Wellness, is here to help us with some de-stressing ideas with – Taking the stress out of going back to school
Carrie & Nina from Forget Him Knot are sharing some inspiration – 52 Bible Verses for the School Year
Kelly from Homesteadin’ Crazy is an expert on growing healthy food – She has the low down on how to create healthy after-school snacks for those kiddos!
And. . .for those who have special needs grandchildren, we’ve got you covered:
Michelle from Autism Mom Life is sharing with us – How to prep your special needs family for starting a new school year
Tiff from Spectrum Sense for Moms has some great helps for those grandparents who tend their special needs grandkids – How to Handle After-School Meltdowns