For the past 5½ years, I’ve been blessed to live in the same town with my ever-growing crew of grandkids. We’ve spent hours together playing, working on schoolwork, doing art projects, baking, reading, going to movies, laughing, having dance parties, and toddling around town just enjoying all that Tulsa has to offer.
Not all grandparents have this privilege, I know. Today’s society is so mobile that many, many miles can separate extended families.
But having four of our five grandkids recently move across the country was nothing short of devastating for me as Nana. Yes, I will get to visit them, and yes they will be back to see everyone at some point. But, I’ve had to really put my mind to considering how I can keep our relationships close and not miss out on their crucial stages of childhood.
You or your parents may be in the same situation. So here are some simple ways to stay in touch and stay close:
- Digital conversations. Phone calls are easy and video chats are even better. Getting to talk to out-of-town family is great, but with Skype and FaceTime, you can feel like you are right there with them having a conversation. Rather than just catching up with their mom and dad, be sure to interact with the grandkids as well. Find out about what’s going on in their lives, ask them questions, and give them a chance to share their thoughts and feelings about things—just like you would in person.
Remember them on both special days and not-so-special days. It’s natural for us to send cards and gifts for birthdays or Christmas. But it can be even more meaningful to choose random days to surprise the grandkids with some mail in their mailbox. Maybe even with a few dollars or a gift card enclosed. What kid doesn’t get excited when they get something in the mail?! It’s just another great way to let them know you’re thinking of them.
Send them some blank cards with stamped, addressed envelopes. During the past several months, my granddaughter and I have been working on a book she gave me for Christmas: Just Grandma and Me. We’ve spent hours finding out more about each other—our likes and dislikes, how growing up today is different from how I grew up, taking pictures, decorating frames, telling stories, and making predictions. For the grandma who is far away, the book included postcards that could be filled out by the grandchild and mailed to her grandma. So I already know I will be receiving some mail from my granddaughter. But that can be done with any type of paper or card and it’s just another easy way for your grandchild to stay in touch with you.
Plan an activity together while during a video chat. Just because you live far from your grandchildren doesn’t mean you can’t play a game, read a book, do an interview, or listen to a presentation. You can even ask their parents to let you watch your grandson play in his soccer game or your granddaughter make pancakes for the first time—via video chat. It takes so little time and planning yet allows you to share in memorable moments.
Send videos back and forth. In a different time zone and having trouble connecting? Try doing video messaging. You send a message to your grandchild if unable to connect live. He can watch it then send a message back to you to be viewed on your timetable.
We have no shortage of ways to keep connected even when we aren’t physically close to our grandchildren. But life is busy so it takes some intentionality to stay in good contact. Make sure you are initiating and not just waiting for a call from them. Check in on them and set other times to have extended chats or share time together on video.
These are ways you can show your grandchildren how special they are to you and that you care about them. Any and all of these simple ways will give you a feeling of closeness and keep your relationships growing until you’re together again.
And parents—do what you can as well to keep your kids and their grandparents in touch. Everyone will benefit.
Question: What ways have you found helpful in keeping grandkids and grandparents connected long-distance? Share your answer in the comments below.