It’s becoming increasingly common for families to live far apart, and some grandparents may now live thousands of miles from their grandchildren. It can be difficult to build close relationships when opportunities to be together are limited, and the situation can become even more complicated if one set of grandparents lives close by whilst the others are separated by many miles.
However, just because you don’t live close to your grandchildren doesn’t mean you can’t have a close relationship with them. Naturally, it takes some planning and effort, but these top tips may help you to build strong bonds with your beloved grandchildren, even if you can’t see them as often as you’d like.
Work together with the parents
Developing bonds with your grandchildren is much easier if you work together with your children. Discuss you feel about the difficulties involved in maintaining close links—it’s important, to be honest with each other and to understand everyone’s emotions without being judgmental. Sometimes, feelings of separation aren’t logical, so acknowledge people’s views without condemning them or belittling how they feel. Brainstorm ideas for staying in touch together, and strategize about family events so everyone feels involved.
Programs like Skype, zoom have revolutionized communication over long-distance grandparenting, and it’s now possible to see and hear your grandchildren from miles away. Often, a video call can leave you feeling as though you’ve actually been together. However, keep your expectations realistic; small children will only be able to pay attention for a very short time, so don’t expect long, unbroken conversations.
Forcing a child to ‘sit and talk with Granny’ will only breed resentment. It may help to plan a specific time to call each week, so it becomes part of the family routine. Look for innovative ways to use video calling, too. For example, my grandchildren love having me listen while their dad reads them a story. And if you can’t be there personally for big events like a birthday or Christmas, you can still share opening presents and blowing out candles.
Make the most of the internet
The internet is a fabulous tool for allowing you to share in your grandchildren’s day-to-day life. Email is a great way to stay in touch—you can send an email via the parents’ address, marking it for your grandchild. They’ll love hearing about what you’ve been doing, especially if you live in a different culture from their own. You can send digital photos and videos, and shared photo-streaming will let you see holiday snaps the moment they’re taken. Sound files can also be sent via email, so you can record a message or even a favorite story (rather like an audiobook) to be shared with your grandchildren.
Don’t forget snail mail
When you’re a child, nothing beats the excitement of receiving a personal letter or parcel, especially if it bears a foreign stamp. Even a short letter or greetings card about something you’ve been doing (or just a note saying that you love them) can have real meaning and can be saved forever. Sending small gifts is also relatively inexpensive and will definitely make your grandchild feel special. If you live abroad, sending something native to that country can seem very exotic. Meanwhile, postcards can be saved to make a colorful display. Try to include any special interest they have, such as a passion for diggers and dinosaurs or princesses and castles.
Use your unique skills
One of the best ways to stay close to your grandkids is to use your unique skills. If you’re great at dressmaking, offer to make a dress or waistcoat for them—even better if you can use ethnic fabric for a special look. Knit or crochet dolls’ clothes, bake special cookies or create your own song CD with familiar favorites that they can use on car journeys.
And finally, nothing beats being together for real, so plan visits when you can. Make them special by spending individual time with your grandchildren, taking them somewhere unusual, or doing one-on-one activities like craftwork or baking. The effort you’ve made to build your relationship with them will pay dividends when you do get together, as you won’t feel like strangers.