Back when I was a child, I saw my grandparents regularly: I slept over their houses about once per month, we would go to their homes for lunch sometimes on the weekends, and they were regular visitors at our home, too. My kids’ grandparents live across the country, though, so visits are rare. Still, I think that they have fairly good relationships with both sets of grandmas and grandpas, despite the distance. If you are in a similar situation, here are some tips for fostering a good grandparent/grandchild relationship:
- Take advantage of technology. With texting, email and Skype available to just about everyone, there’s no reason that living far away from family means that you won’t be able to keep in touch! My kids enjoy Skyping with their grandparents on holidays, and we exchange photos via our smartphones regularly. My son has a Facebook page, and he keeps in touch with Grandma, Grandpa, Nonni and Poppi that way, too!
- …But don’t discount old-fashioned snail-mail. Sending school papers, drawings, photos and handwritten letters is a great way for kids to bond with their grandparents. Even better, kids absolutely love getting mail! Encourage children too young to write to draw a picture, and let them dictate a few sentences for you to transcribe. School-aged kids might enjoy showing off their best school papers and tests by mailing them to grandparents, and teens may really appreciate a “penpal” who can offer adult guidance and love without cramping their style, the way parents do.
- Plan visits when feasible. Flights are expensive, particularly for a whole family, so it’s understandable why long-distance grandparents might not see their grandchildren more than once every year or two. Still, try to make visits happen when they can. Of course, the grandparents can also come to visit you, as long as they are in reasonably good health. When kids are older, consider sending them alone to visit for a week in the summer. Another option is for grandparents to come to you, but then to take the kids for a weekend away in a nearby city. This way, they can cement their bonds and you can have the weekend to relax, knowing that they’re in capable and loving hands.
The bond between grandparents and grandchildren is a special one, and if you are lucky in that your parents are alive, healthy and willing to be involved in your child’s life, it’s great to foster that relationship, even if they live far away. For those parents who have lost their own parents, or for whom a relationship isn’t possible for whatever reason, your kids might enjoy “adopting” a grandparent in your local area. Do this by contacting a nursing home or even your church to find out if there are any lonely senior citizens who are missing their own faraway grandchildren. They could also spend time with a friend’s grandparents; I know that my children love to visit with Granny Pat, one of their friend’s grandmothers who lives nearby. Granny Pat dotes on all of the kids in her grandson’s circle as though they were her own grandchildren to spoil!
What are some ways that your kids have established bonds with grandparents who live far away?