8 Ways to Live Well as a Grandparent With Low Vision

Grandmother spending time with her family
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For most of us, with our families all grown up, we naturally look forward to the next phase of our adult evolution as grandparents: an exciting era when we can contribute much more of our time and attention than perhaps was possible when raising our own families.

You may have always had a visual impairment and are used to finding resourceful ways around a visual task. In this case, your children will be familiar with adjusting to a different approach to parenting which, hopefully, they are able to explain to their children.

But what if you are new to vision loss as a mature adult who has been diagnosed with an eye condition? You and your family are not used to the challenges this brings.

Are you wondering how you can still give your time and attention to your grandchildren even when your vision is diminishing?

The good news is: Of course you can!

It is true for some that they will  have to face the natural wear-and-tear processes that can affect their eyesight, which means losing some of the visual abilities they had when younger. But, if this happens to you, please be reassured, in order to care for and love your grandchildren, they don’t require your sight – what they DO need most of all, is your vision of the possible.

In a previous post, 6 Great Activities for Blind Grandparents and Sighted Children, I mention how important it is to be proactive in helping our grand-kiddies (and their parents) to understand that lack of sight doesn’t equate to lack of playtime.

Being blind or visually impaired doesn’t have to diminish our sense of fun.

I recently took a trip interstate to spend some time with my 4-year-old granddaughter and noticed how flexible she was in adapting to my different approach to parenting (even though I am her only visually impaired relative).

Thanks to her Mom also reinforcing my different needs, instead of pointing to something, she quickly learned that in order for me to share in her excitement, the object had to be placed in my hand first and THEN I saw it. The same was true with nodding her head in replying to a question: to gain my attention, she had to use words more than the body language she used with her own Mom and Dad.

That is how easy it can be to train the next generation!

8 Ways Living Well as a Grandparent With Low Vision

Here are 8 ways you can cultivate a meaningful and interactive relationship with your grandchildren. Remember, these are suggestions based on my granddaughter’s preferences, so be sure to learn what sorts of things your grandchildren enjoy and you will be on a winner too.

Mind Your Language

Children learn by example. What we say and do influences their ‘world view’ immensely. So, it is important to use positive language when teaching them about your vision loss. There are ​6 C-Words you can teach them straight away.

The fact that you have low vision now is not a tragedy but a reality. It is good to point out that you are not a freak just because you are the only person in the family and community they know who is living with a visual impairment.

Instead, establish a playful way to communicate with your grandchildren and  make being blind or visually impaired a very natural part of their life too.

Children are innately inquisitive, so encourage verbal communication by being open to all their questions, especially the ‘silly’ ones—it’s all part of helping them to see from your low vision perspective.

Be Willing to Show Your Limitations

Obviously, there will be some visual tasks that you won’t be able to do as a sighted person but instead of feeling sad or ashamed of your lack of eyesight, be willing to accept your limitations. By doing so, you are much more able to be resourceful and can teach your grandchildren to help you find another ‘fun’ solution to the visual task.

For example, they may bring you their favorite book to read. Younger children are mainly interested in bright illustrations and quick storylines so you could either ask them to ‘read’ the book by flipping through the illustrations which is like putting them in charge of the narrative which they will love doing or, alternatively, you can offer to make up an exciting fable together.

Another way to share books with older grandchildren is by listening to audio classics.

Many titles can be found as a FREE Library Service. By joining up as a member of the National Library Service for the Blind (NLS)—you and your grandchildren can cuddle up close and enjoy being read to by your own personal narrator.

Confidence Breeds Contentment

You will have a lifetime of experience behind you as a person who has many skills based on your personal passions. Know your talents and share them with confidence.

Are you a great cook, a keen gardener, a creative crafts person, a maker of things, a lover of sports, a walker? What is your passion?

Knowing your strengths can be shared with confidence as you pass on real life skills when spending time with your grandchildren. Let them do the seeing while you do the talking!

For example, my granddaughter and I not only enjoyed being out in her Mommy’s garden but we also kept up our garden playtime indoors for hours by using pretend fruit and vegetables in her imaginary planting game. Too easy!

Give it some thought. Your hobbies and passions can be shared with confidence and will bring a whole new appreciation into the lives of your grandchildren.

Variety is Truly the Spice of Life 

Try a dash of everything to find out what works best for you and your grandchildren.

In other words, don’t give up too easily and feel you have failed when a visual game prevents your participation. Instead, create a game you can also play by involving the kids to help come up with a novel idea.

My granddaughter thought it terrific fun for me to give her a piggyback ride in the park. Even though I could only see a few steps in front, I held on to her Mom’s arm while my granddaughter clung to my back like a little monkey (and her Mom still had a hand free to enjoy a cup of coffee).

Children are masters of using their imagination, so get creative and have fun. Don’t forget, there are board games with tactile markers that can help you identify parts of a game like chess or scrabble. Read 12 Fun Ways to use a multi-sensory approach to Education to gain more ideas on using all the senses for playtime.

Laugh at Your Bloopers

Have you noticed how many times a day children laugh out loud? They certainly know how to live in the present moment and can find the funny side of just about anything – including your bloopers. Don’t take their random comments too personally.

So, you made a mistake and they are laughing at your different colored shoes? Lighten up and tell them you are trying to start a new fashion. The main thing is to stay playful and show your grandchildren that making little bloopers due to having low vision is no big deal.

A playful approach to life is not solely reserved for the sighted. Laughter will hide a myriad of embarrassing moments, so why not use it to great effect?

Be ‘Partners in Crime’

What I mean by this is to encourage collaboration with your grandchildren: using their sight and your knowledge, you can accomplish just about anything!

Sighted children with sighted parents are used to being watched, told what to do, and are often under visual scrutiny. You are at an advantage here.

Being blind or visually impaired, you can reverse the usual roles. Ask your grandchild for visual clues as you interact and they will be thrilled to be the ‘watch-keeper’ for a refreshing change.

By teaching your grandchild how to collaborate at a young age, you are also offering a life skill in the art of sharing – something that will serve them well in their interactions with others.

Develop Intuitive Attention

Like adults, children need time to play and time to rest. I observed this with my granddaughter, who needed time to explore together and time when she preferred to play on her own.

Turning into your grandchild’s natural cycles is like developing intuitive attention.

Knowing when to instigate a game or allowing your grandchild to withdraw into their room is being in tune with the sort of attention they really need at that moment in time. The entire household benefits from respite and, quite frankly, you will also enjoy a breather to put your feet up before the next round of energetic requests and bustling activity.

You Are the Best Gift of All

The Number One thing you can give to your grandchildren, no matter how  much eyesight you may lose in older age, is your desire to be a proactive person in their lives.

Don’t let any loss of vision stop you from being the best grandparent you can be.

Ultimately, your grandchildren will thrive on your actions of love and the time spent together in learning more about each other’s different worlds.

Even when you can’t be physically present in their home, you can keep your connection strong by establishing a method of communication that suits you both. Now that my grand-daughter can write a little, we can begin a fun letter exchange (using my technology for the blind to write and read) and include a packet of stickers or balloons, which I know she will be excited to receive in her mailbox.

You can use the phone, email, texting, or the odd parcel of goodies as easy ways to show you care, to say ‘I love you’ to the little people in your life.

Try to remember these sobering words of Maya Angelou who wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Whether you get to play their games or not, dig a garden patch or kick a ball with your grandchildren, bake a batch of cookies together or go on vacation with the whole family, the one thing your grandchildren are bound to remember about you is – not your lack of sight, but your ability to give freely from your loving heart.

Now who said grandparents with low vision have no particular role to play in a family’s evolution?

Be confident, positive and creative – and make a difference in the lives of the ones you love.

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