Long Distance Grandparenting: How to Keep in Touch
If your family is one of the millions in America today who are separated by hundreds - even thousands - of miles, you know that day-to-day grandparenting is pretty close to impossible. According to the Census Bureau, Americans move around so often for a variety of reasons. Some people relocate because they need to; to make a living or because of health concerns. Others move because they want to; to retire or go on an adventure. Because certain regions of the country attract people who specialize in certain industries (Hollywood for the film industry, Silicon Valley for the computer industry and New York for the financial industry, just to name a few), we are a nation constantly on the move.
However, while distance may have an adverse affect on the closeness of a family, especially in a grandparent-grandchild relationship, there are ways to overcome the difficulties distance can impose on these relationships. No matter how far you live from your grandchildren, it is possible to maintain a strong attachment across the miles. Below are a few tips to help you make the most of these long-distance relationships.
Pick up the phone - Telephone contact is important to utilize because you and your grandchildren can communicate using your voices. There are inexpensive calling cards that can make staying in touch affordable regardless of the distance. Call each of your grandchildren separately, if possible, and set aside another time to talk to their parents. This will make them feel extra special. Also, try to call at times when the family isn't rushed or in the middle of a meal or another project so they are available and have time to talk. If you are able to call shortly before or after some activity your grandchild is participating in, you can utilize this time to share in their excitement. Have conversations with them about what they've been doing and keep mental notes about their current interests so that the next time you call, you can pick up where you left off during your last conversation.
Sometimes younger children prefer not to say much over the phone, but don't let that disappoint you. They are probably smiling and nodding as they listen to your voice over the line. Make sure your grandchildren know they can call you anytime, but don't wait around for the phone to ring. Kids are very busy people!
Send notes via "snail mail" - Think about how much you enjoy receiving personal letters and small packages in the mail and just imagine how excited your grandchildren will be to receive them from you. Encourage them to respond to your letters and/or small gifts by sending you photos, drawings, copies of report cards and more. Send letters about anything from jokes and riddles to stories about your own childhood. Keep letters short and simple for younger children, as they don't have the patience to listen to someone read them a long letter.
Children love getting care packages and small goodies in the mail, as well. Send small items with your letters on occasion, such as a piece of gum or a dried leaf or flower from your garden. You may even want to send a disposable camera and ask your grandchildren to take some funny pictures of themselves for you. When you go on vacation, send postcards and pictures of where you've been.
As with phone calls, take the initiative and don't be surprised or hurt if your grandchildren don't respond as often as you'd like. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and blank paper along with your letters to make it easier for them to write back to you.
Just press play! - Instead of writing a letter, record one on tape every once in awhile to change things up. A simple hand-held tape recorder can be used and sent back and forth between you and your grandchildren with a new recording each time. You may also consider singing a song or recording yourself reading a book. Get creative if you'd like and include little comments as you go along, even if it is just to prompt your grandchild to turn the page. Send the tape and a copy of the book together rather than just the book for an added personal touch.
Video recording is also a lot of fun for kids. A video camera is a great gift to give your far-away family that you'll both benefit from. Your children can send you video clips of the grandchildren playing soccer, riding their bikes, leaving for the first day of school and other special activities. You can record your own clips on a video and send it back to your grandchildren. Call it something like "A Day in the Life of Grandma and Grandpa." They will delight in seeing you smiling back at them through the television screen.
Get acquainted with the Internet - Most kids these days are computer literate. While it may seem somewhat daunting, the opportunity to communicate with your grandchildren afforded by e-mail and instant messaging is worth tackling the unknown. Luckily, the cost of a computer is significantly less today than it used to be. And with the Internet, the ability to send messages back and forth can keep your contact vibrant, timely and relevant. Send your grandchildren a short e-mail message a few times a week. Schedule a time when both you and your grandchild will be online and chat with each other for awhile. Instant messaging will also save you money on your phone bill. You can also send each other digital pictures. Even playing online games together, like checkers or chess, can strengthen the bond between you and your grandchildren from across the miles. Just ask their parents to help you set it up!
In addition to using technology to stay in touch with your grandchildren, be creative in your efforts to keep them emotionally close. When you make a concerted effort to love and care for grandchildren who live far away, they notice! And in a few years when they're able to travel on their own, they'll be eager to take their turns visiting you.
For more information on ways to stay close to your grandchildren, check out these great resources:
- Today's Grandparents Magazine - Sign up for your FREE copy today for more grandparenting tips
- Grandparenting From A Distance, by The National Institute for Building Long Distance Relationships
- Creative Grandparenting Across the Miles, by Patricia L. Fry
- The Long Distance Grandmother: How to Stay Close to Distant Grandchildren, by Selma Wassermann