Grandparenting while Blind: Talking to children about recent vision loss

Many people dealing with significant vision loss later in life happen to be grandparents. Whether the impairment is acquired as a result of illness or injury, moving forward and adjusting to late-life vision loss is the first step. 

Ten months into her sight loss journey, Kate felt it was time to reach out and talk to her family about losing most of her vision. Her daughter agreed to visit and bring Kate’s grandchildren, ages five and seven. But where to begin? 

Being a parent and grandparent was rewarding and life-affirming and she needed her family around more than ever before. While Kate still struggled to find the grace to accommodate her vision loss, she felt putting off being with her daughter and grandchildren would be more harmful. 

According to the qualitative data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), blindness is listed in the top ten disabilities affecting people 18 and over. Vision loss can drastically impact a person’s life, as well as those who care for and about people who have compromised vision. Reduced vision among mature adults can result in social isolation, family stress, and an increased risk of developing other health conditions.

If you are like Kate and are seeking answers regarding how to approach the grandkids about losing your vision, you are not alone. Grandparenting while blind isn’t the tough part. The hard part is adjusting to the initial vision loss. Part of reducing feelings of stress and isolation is sharing your experiences with loved ones.

Once the time taken to accommodate a visual impairment is achieved individually, it’s time to share it with grandkids. Be prepared to hear both simple and complex questions. Children are curious and open-minded. The fear or prejudice which they may develop about blindness is learned from adults. Providing them with a personal and genuine experience helps remove any other earlier exposures to disability bias. Be aware your grandchildren might be more informed than you know. 

Many primary school curricula now include disability awareness presentations to educate children about people with disabilities. 

Be ready to fence questions from a place of innocent curiosity, including:

  • How do you get dressed?
  • How do you know what time it is?
  • How do you read email and watch tv?  

One grandparent was asked how she would know how to find the cookies. Be prepared for the tough questions.

“How will you remember what we look like?” is one of these questions. Grandparents who have been asked similar questions suggest answering honestly and not changing the subject or ignoring it. Saying, “I don’t know we will figure it out together,” maybe the best reply. 

Hands-on tasks help

Show your grandchildren how walking with a white cane keeps you safer or how your smartphone reads labels to you. Connect with children in a way that is fun and meaningful.

It’s important to remain sensitive to their concerns and offers of help but also be mindful not to depend on them. Do as much as possible independently. One grandparent loves to take along with her twelve-year-old granddaughter food shopping. She shares the tasks between them, comparing prices. While it all seems mundane the granddaughter is learning important life skills like reading and comparing labels or prices and budgeting. 

Sports and activities 

Modifications for recreational activities and sports with your grandchildren are another part of regaining confidence and reducing isolation. Find ways to stay active and engaged. Adaptive sports and board and card games make being with your family fun. Remember you have been coping with an extraordinary circumstance and making sense of it with the people you cherish and trust is a healing outcome. 

The grandparents interviewed for this article agreed on the great equalizer in terms of connecting with their grandchildren under age seven or starting to read is print/braille books.

Sharing a story is fun, teaches literacy skills, and builds new bonds. Whether you and your grandchildren read together with braille, a handheld magnifier, or listen to an audiobook, sharing time and affirming the relationship is the most important part of helping our children and grandchildren to understand how we live and thrive.

Contact us! 

Whether you have technology questions or just need someone to listen, Outlook Enrichment is here to help you with grandparenting with vision loss. 

Our peer support groups give participants opportunities to brainstorm solutions to everyday challenges and to just be able to relate to someone who understands. Contact us today to get your questions answered or to learn more about our programs.

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