Long Distance Grandparenting
Grandmothers missing their grandkids!
We move, the families move and the distances to visit can become a problem. No longer can you take for granted the ability to go visit or receive a visit anytime during the week. Those weekly trips to the Mall, restaurant, show, and attendance at school programs or sporting events are no longer possible. So how can we be that “perfect” grandparent when we live so far away?
Most of us will experience this situation during our lives and it will be just one of the family challenges we go through. While our grandchild involvement varies, these once removed offspring represent many things as we brag about their accomplishments and even see ourselves in them. Losing this relationship can hurt at any age but is even more difficult if the grandchildren are younger. The teenage grandchildren tend to seek more independence and, in doing so, distance themselves somewhat from the grandparents. Luckily, we still have those school or club events, birthdays, graduations, and holiday events so an attachment continues. Then comes the university years and beyond. Life continues!
We may fear the grandchildren – at least younger ones – will forget us and those “good days” together. We may fear that the approaching years may leave us, as we age, less able to enjoy the grandchildren whom we now seldom see. I believe we confuse the physical seeing the grandchild often to the having or not having a loving and fun relationship with our grandchildren. In actuality, there are multiple ways in which we can show that grandparent love even when we cannot physically travel and be there. Things to consider as we prepare to set up a long-distance grandparent plan:
- How often will we be physically able to visit with our grandchildren? What are the financial circumstances. How is our health?
- How many grandchildren do we have and how are they spread among families?
- What are the grandchildren’s ages? We relate differently at different ages.
- What is our time demand? Do we work? How busy are we?
- What is our technology ability?
Here are some of the things that we plan do to continue communicating our concern, help, attention, and love to our grandchildren.
- Renew the old art of letter writing. There is something thrilling about receiving a letter from Grandma or Grandpa that has their penmanship, regardless of readability. In them we can add notes of encouragement and even uplifting stories of other events. Chances are your grandchildren will be thrilled just to get mail.
- Use the modern version of letters through e-mail. This might require some upgrading of our technical abilities with the computer, iPad or iPhone.
- Learn to text. Our grandchildren know how and if they know we know how, they may be more spontaneous to shoot us a text.
- Through our smart phone or digital camera we can send our pictures or video by e-mail or on a Web site.
- Stay attached to the phone. It is good to hear voices and communicate instantaneously.
- Invest in a Web camera and, if needed, for the grandkids too.
- Record ourselves reading books – to be shown to the grandchildren. It might be wise to send the book before we send the tape.
- For the older grandchildren, a “care” package of goodies is always a very welcome reminder that the grandparents are thinking about them. Likewise, for the grandchild leaving for college, sending a “healthcare box” is always needed that contains most of the emergency first aid items from a thermometer to anti-biotic creams to band aids. Help them with their tax returns.
- Cards are always welcome and terrific reminders of our love. These can be to congratulate, to encourage, to sympathize, and to celebrate.
- Work out a project or a game that can be played via the computer or even through mailing back and forth. An example might be jointly creating a decorated sweatshirt.
- For Easter we can prepare plastic eggs with surprises and mail with instructions for the hunt.
- Work with the grandchildren on presents for the parents for birthdays and events such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
- With the wonders of technology we can still be the tutor for school and class assignments, and for learning enhancements.
- Keep a record of your contacts with grandchildren. This is more important if you have many grandchildren and want to be equal in your attention.
Also, do not forget vacations. This might be a time to try and hook up when the family is together and has some quality time away from work, school, and events. As we see, maintaining contact by planning, and traveling via technology to show interest and love is totally possible even if there are miles between us and our grandchildren.