Grandparents can be a special part of a child’s life, filling a role no one else can. Studies have actually found that grandparents’ involvement in children’s lives reduces the chances that the child will grow up to smoke, drink, or commit criminal acts, according to Grandparents.com
Yet with many families spread out these days, grandparents often find themselves at quite a distance from their cherished grandchildren. It’s easy for grandparents and grandchildren to feel cut out of touch when they only see each other every now and then.
The Huffington Post reports, “Not only do long-distance grandparents tell us that they miss seeing their grandchildren grow up with their own eyes, they also miss the activities that help build lasting connections – like knitting, fishing, baking, or just playing cards. Even with regular virtual contact, when grandparents and grandchildren lack common experiences, they have a tougher time establishing a life-long bond.”
So, how can grandparents and grandchildren connect over the distance?
It’s in YOUR hands – the parents have to facilitate that bond
If you want your kids to be close with their grandparents, don’t expect magic to happen without effort by you. You will be responsible for pulling the grandparents and grandchildren together. It may seem like work now, but just keep in mind the rewards you will see down the road.
Here are some tips for parents looking to spark that important connection.
- Find the medium that both your child and the grandparents can embrace. It’s no use forcing Skype on the grandparents if they don’t use a computer much. But if they have cell phones, sending text messages with photos could be part of your day or week. Likewise, if you’re too busy to Skype but the grandparents are always trying to get you online, why not suggest a call on speakerphone?
- Grandparents can send care packages. Parents must make sure the kids understand who the packages are from and help build the excitement.
- Grandparents can write letters and include photos. Parents can read them to the child and show the photos. And even help the child write letters back.
- Parents, talk about the grandparents to your kids. Tell them stories, show them photos, and just mention them as part of your day.
- Reinforce the habit immediately after an in-person visit, whether you Skype, email, or call each other. The grandparents will be fresh in the child’s mind, and the fun moments shared will be easily recalled. In addition, an in-person visit will have given the grandparents lots of talking points, since they will know firsthand which toys the grandchildren are interested in at the moment, for example.
- Keep expectations level with the kids’ ages. A two-year-old may not be able to have a satisfactory phone conversation, but he or she can at four years old. Make sure the grandparents don’t expect too much too early.
Looking for more ways to grow that vital bond? Grandparents.com has an entire section devoted to long-distance grandparenting.
Just for fun, see how 15 preschoolers define their grandmother or grandfather, as interviewed by the San Joaquin County Family Resource & Referral Center.
So, are your kids’ grandparents nearby or are they bonding via virtual grandparenting?