By Kerrie McLoughlin
Most long-distance grandparents will agree that you don’t have to live in the same town to play a huge role in the life of your grandchildren. Yes, you might be sad that your grandkids don’t live close by, but you can certainly still create a special and lasting relationship with some planning. Here’s how:
Research the places where your grandchildren live so when you are talking on the phone, you can ask them questions that are relevant and interesting to them. Also, familiarize yourself with their hobbies and interests, movies, music and/or TV shows they are interested in so you will have more to talk about.
Read to Them and Play Games
Joy Candrian of the blog XOXO Grandma suggests, “record yourself reading a book and then upload that recording to YouTube so your grandchild can hear your voice and see you reading them a story. After you’ve got your recorded story online, mail the book to your grandchild so they can follow along while they watch your video.” Another idea is to buy a blank puzzle at a craft store then, if you are arsty, draw a picture on it. If not, write a message and color in some of the pieces. Your grandchild will have a blast putting it together over and over. In addition, online games like Words with Friends are also a fun and educational way to connect.
Recognize Holidays and Special Dates
Keep track of important dates so you can be there for the big events. Set reminders on your phone or put them on your wall calendar so you can send cards or plan a video chat for birthdays, graduations, last day of school, prom, sports, spelling bees and so much more. Candrian offers, “I think giving gifts is such a natural way to show we care, and giving a handmade gift [such as a quilt] shows we care enough to spend our time for those we love. Your grandchild may not understand that now but as they grow older and wiser, your gifts should help them feel the love you have for them.”
Raise Video Chatting and Social Media to a New Level
Skype, FaceTime and Zoom make it so much easier to see their faces and keep yours fresh in theirs. They grow and change so quickly, so make weekly dates to do things like call up the grandkids and take them on a walk with you, let them watch you bake something, read to them. One way my 90-year-old grandmother loves to keep up with her grandkids and great-grandkids is to hop on Facebook daily to check out status updates and photos.
Make sure you have plenty of photos of your grandchildren around your home and send photos of yourself to them as well. You want them to get to know you as well, and it’s so easy these days to create photo books and books of stories from your childhood for them on a site like Mixbook. Check out the Marco Polo app for a FaceTime meets voicemail experience, where you get to leave and receive video messages, and they don’t disappear… you can save them on Marco Polo indefinitely and also save them to your phone or forward them to other family members.
Regular Visits and Special Trips
Carissa Jones, mom of 8, shares, “Both sets of grandparents take small groups of one to two kids home with them. My parents take the kids to their home for their 10th birthday and they have a special long weekend together that each kiddo has anticipated in the months leading up to their birthday.”
Ready for a Fun Visit
When it’s time for the kids to come to your home, make sure you have a stash of games, books and toys to enjoy together. Scout out local nature centers, programs and activities that you can all do together during the visit. Baking or preparing meals together can create lifelong memories in addition to being entertaining.
Despite distance, you can form close bonds with your grandchildren and ensure you play a key role in their lives.
Kerrie McLoughlin’s Book Recommendations:
- Connect with Your Grandkids: Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles by Cheri Fuller
- Long-Distance Grandparenting: Connecting with Your Grandchildren from Afar by Willma Willis Gore
- Virtual Grandma: A how-to guide on “virtually connecting” with little ones up to age five using FaceTime, Skype, and other apps by Alison Hillhouse
- Long Distance Grandma: Staying Connected Across the Miles by Janet Teitsort
- The Long-Distance Grandmother: How to Stay Close to Distant Grandchildren by Selma Wassermann