Inter-generational Zoom tutoring. Courtesy San Diego Oasis

By Simona Valanciute

Kids may have a very different “back to school” experience this year, and most likely they will need help with their school work more than ever with virtual learning. Older adults and grandparents can help the school-aged children in their life succeed in school—and in fact, inter-generational tutoring can have serious benefits for both.

You might be very well-versed in homework help already, especially if you’re one of the millions of grandparents in the United States raising their grandchildren. But some seniors might have some understandable hesitations about assisting a child with school work right now.

If you’re not 100% confident about your own skills with videoconferencing technology, it can feel intimidating to even try to help a grandchild or other loved one with distance learning homework. Or, perhaps, you might simply feel like you’re out of the loop or fear you don’t have the patience or knowledge to help them out.

However, by following a few simple tips, you can be an excellent tutor for the student in your life, no matter how old you are.

1. Remember your advantages: time and life experience. If you’re retired, or working less, you have a precious resource that many parents and teachers lack: time. Just spending the time to give kids one-on-one help with their schoolwork gives them something they don’t often have access to, even during a normal school year. And no matter how different the technology kids use to learn might be from what you used growing up, you have valuable life experience to offer.

2. Tell them how you overcame difficult problems at their age. Some struggles, like feeling confused by a homework assignment or being afraid of reading aloud in class, are timeless. Draw from all that life experience you have to tell them about a time you faced a similar difficulty when you were their age and inspire them with a story about how you overcame it.

3. Admit when you don’t know something, then use your “village.” You can’t be an expert on everything, but there’s likely someone in your network of friends and family members who might know more about a particular subject. For example, if you are truly baffled by a math problem, freely admit you don’t know the answer—then, call up your friend who became a math professor, and ask them for tips on how to explain the concept to a child. It takes a village, right?

4. Build your own skills while you help kids build theirs. If you’re still figuring out Zoom, and want to help your grandchild remotely, it’s easy to find free or low-cost resources for learning about videoconferencing. At San Diego Oasis we have many classes that are free or low cost that help older adults improve their technology and other skills all from the comfort of their own homes.

Tutoring can give older adults a sense of purpose and help them build bonds with kids who might not be able to get individualized attention in school. If you’re inspired to use these inter-generational tutoring tips, but don’t have a school-aged child in your life, consider becoming an Oasis tutoring volunteer.

The San Diego Oasis tutoring program matches senior citizens with students in kindergarten through 4th grade who need one-on-one support with reading and writing—and many of our volunteer tutors say that the experience has helped them as much as it helped the child. During this pandemic, our tutors have been superstars helping students virtually, especially as students and parents navigate distance learning.

Kids who were already struggling risk falling even farther behind because of COVID-19 school closures—and many older adults who are separated from their families may be experiencing the negative health effects of social isolation. Tutoring a child, whether in your home or remotely, can make a major difference in both of your lives.

Simona Valanciute is the president and CEO of San Diego Oasis, an award-winning nonprofit organization serving people age 50 and better, who pursue healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles, and community service.