Long Distance Grandparenting
Long distance grandparents continue to be a growing segment of a society in which the world grows smaller and smaller. When your grandchildren move away, are born in another state or across the world, it can be a difficult adjustment. The bond between grandchildren and grandparents is strong, and they love having their Nana or Papa involved with them whether they’re down the block or an ocean away.
So, how do loving grandparents maintain a long distance relationship with grandchildren? It seems that old-fashioned communication tools combined with the marvels of modern technology can help to ease the distance and minimize the separation. Telephones, computers, and cell phones continue to provide unique opportunities that help families stay as close as possible over long distances.
Although nothing beats seeing those beautiful smiles or having those little arms around your neck in a great big hug, there are many ways to stay current in your grandkids’ minds and hearts. Here are a few suggestions for staying in touch long distance:
Birth of Grandchildren – 1 year
Nothing can compensate for holding the precious baby, but there are several ways to share in those special moments.
- Camera phones can provide a look at the new arrival within minutes of birth.
- Pictures and videos are easy to post and view via the internet.
- If you do not have internet at home, most local libraries have computers you can use and are usually happy to assist you.
- Pictures/videos could be put on a CD or DVD and sent via the postal service.
- For a long distance grandma making something , perhaps a simple afghan, small quilt or blanket to comfort the baby can carry your love across the miles. If you enjoy singing, record some lullabies. Choosing the ones you sang for your children can have an added bonus. The familiar songs can comfort the parents when the nights are long.
1 – 5 Years
Grandchildren love talking to their grandparents on the phone! Sometimes they get so excited they can’t talk, so be prepared to ask them some simple questions that let them share a little bit of themselves…try to avoid straight ‘yes or no’ questions.
The grandchild has the opportunity to learn the sound of your voice. When their skills grow. making animal sounds and forming sentences the phone experience is more enjoyable. Sometimes you can’t get a word in edgewise and they disconnect you!
Using Cell Phones
These are great from the perspective that you can call your grandkids from wherever you are…your backyard or a special location, snap a photo and send it right along to them in real time. If your grandkids are teens, this is often the best way to reach out to them, and they love to send cell phone photos!
This is one of the best ways to stay in touch in a personal way. Webcams are fairly inexpensive, and truly the next best thing to being there. It gives you both a chance to see each other in real time, talk and share and laugh almost in person.
Books are a growing fascination at this age, find out what their favorites are. If available you can check them out from the library, (or buy a copy). Then record the story on tape and send it to them. If you are not camera shy, set in your favorite chair and read into the camera. Then grandma or grandpa could be watched live on the television or computer.
Creating your own books can be a pleasant experience. Here are some suggestions:
- Grandma Book – I use cardstock and the plastic protective sheets for three ringed binders. Include pictures of yourselves, your home, even your community. Attach the pictures to the cardstock and add identifying words that the parents can read. Have fun and be creative.
- Picture book – Cut pictures from magazines, calendars, brochures, or create your own drawings, the sky is the limit.
- Family Story Book – Write down stories about your children and include pictures if possible. You could send a new page each month. The story book could become a special family treasure.
- If your families have the set up, using a video camera from your computer is a fun way to communicate in live time.
Should the young family have a chance to visit and your grandchild is two to three you might consider videotaping your home inside and out. Talk about the things in the yard and in each room you visit. Young children will feel less afraid if your home is familiar.
Regular Packages or Letters
Weekly or monthly arrivals in the mailbox for young children are a great way to maintain communication. You don’t have to spend a lot of money: inexpensive toys, personal photographs, books, crayons and coloring books, even free coloring pages printed from the internet along with a personal note create anticipation and glee in young children. Kids love to get mail – and when its from their grandparents it’s a real treat! Even just a regular handwritten note or letter once a week can reap priceless rewards. If handwriting is difficult, consider using a small cassette recorder to make audio “letters.” Of course, a videotape or DVD film would be even more special. One family mails tapes and DVD slideshow of pictures back and forth. A tape of family stories or books read by Grandma or Grandpa makes a treasured gift to a younger child or even an older one.
Create Holiday and Birthday Traditions
- Some grandparents send holiday gift boxes for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and more. If the children have moved away, sending grandma’s family-favorite cookies or yummy holiday breads can bring back loving memories.
- Getting a card or gift from grandparents on a birthday is very special. Even small remembrances mean a lot to kids. If the budget is limited, a homemade card or a gift of a family heirloom (such as small jewelry, a book, a cherished old toy, etc) will be greatly appreciated.
- Open gifts over the phone. It’s fun to send presents, but even more special to hear the joy in the recipient’s voice as the gift is opened. Also, thank-yous are given immediately.
Knowing Each Child Helps
- When talking to a grandchild on the phone or via email, ask questions. What are their interests (they change often with kids!)? What is going on with their education? Who are their friends and what do they like to do together? This helps maintain closeness.
- Send appropriate gifts. When in doubt, ask the parents. It’s sad as a child to get a gift of something that was a favorite last year, but has gone out of style or is no longer of interest.
- Ask grands to send photos of their rooms, friends, and what they are doing.
Keeping in touch with distant family members in important, especially when it comes to children. Grandparents can make a huge impact on the lives of their grandchildren with a little thought and fun. There are many ways you can stay in touch with your grandchildren, and all the ‘old-fashioned’ modes of communication work as well as the most modern conveniences. If you want to try something different, how about a surprise party, complete with cake, confetti and candles? You can send a cake long distance complete with confetti and candles…there doesn’t even have to be an occasion. And remember, nothing beats a real live hug, so if traveling is not possible, perhaps the gift of airline tickets would be an exciting idea.