How to build lifelong memories and establish a close bond with your grandchild-even from a distance.
I’m extremely lucky to live only a mile from my grandchild. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to cuddle his sweet baby self every single day of his five weeks of life. I know I have a fortunate situation, and I’m also aware there are many grandparents who are thousands of miles away from their precious grandchildren. Besides missing them is the worry they won’t be able to develop a close bond with infrequent visits. Will the children remember the grandparents if they only see them once a year? If the other set of grandparents live close by, will they favor them? Let’s be honest, it’s not as easy to be closely involved if you live far away, but with some effort it’s possible to establish a close bond!
In talking with friends who have long distance relationships with their grandchildren I picked up a few ideas to make a connection despite the distance.
- Make a date to call once a week. If your grandkids are older and the parents approve, send a text message. Instead of asking the boring “How is school going?” question, discuss what your grandchild is passionate about; soccer, video games, friends, etc.
- Better yet, Facetime or Skype so you can see one another. For young children, this would be a great opportunity to read a book to them or sing a song.
- With older grandchildren, have a book club together. Pick a book, read it separately and then Facetime or Skype a discussion of the book. There are often questions in the back of the book or online to get the discussion going.
- Sticking with the technology theme, think about connecting with teen grandchildren through social media. I add several caveats with this suggestion; check with the parents and don’t be offended if your grandchild doesn’t want to interact in this way. Some may think it’s great, but other teens may feel this is overstepping social boundaries.
- Snail mail may be outdated, but what kid wouldn’t be excited to get a real letter in the mail from their grandparents? Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope to increase the odds of getting a return letter! I still have cherished letters I received from my grandmother fifty years ago. Even though I only got to see her about once a year, I felt close to her because she made the effort to maintain contact with me and made me feel valued by asking questions and staying aware of my interests.
- Although you don’t want to overcompensate with material gifts, it can be wonderful to occasionally send a little gift in the mail to your grandkids. It doesn’t have to be expensive; a book, a toy or even a batch of homemade cookies in the mail is a welcome message of love.
- If it’s financially possible, take the grandkids on a trip once a year! There are so many great opportunities to travel with grandkids. Road Scholar is a company that offers many intergenerational trips in the United States and abroad. On a more affordable level, we’re looking forward to taking our grandson to Silver Dollar City and Great Wolf Lodge.
- Establish Camp Grandparent. I think most adult children would absolutely love to ship their kids off to the grandparent’s house for a week every year! What a great tradition to have a week every year where you share fun activities and spend quality time with your grandkids. This is how lifelong memories are made!
- Create a photo album of pictures of yourself and pictures of you and your grandchild together. If your grandchild is very young, take an 8×10 picture of yourself and have it laminated so it can’t be destroyed.
The parents of your grandchildren are the gatekeepers to your interactions with your grandchildren, so make sure you clear your ideas and plans with them first. Although you may long to live closer and see your grandkids more frequently, one of the bonuses of being the faraway grandparent is you will get to play the role of the fun, exciting grandparent. Geographically, you may not fit into the “over the river and through the woods” kind of grandparent, but you can still play a very favorable and close role in your Little Red Riding Hood’s life!