Long Distance Grandparenting

by Gill Grigor

When your retirement choices or the employment choices of your children have you facing long distance grandparenting, can you still remain an important part of the lives of your grandchildren?

Many of us have children and grandchildren living in another part of the country or even overseas. It may seem difficult to maintain the closeness with them that we would like, but with a little bit of planning it can be done.

Younger grandchildren who are not reading yet will love to hear you on the phone. If you make a regular time every week to phone them, they will grow up knowing that you are someone who loves and cares for them. It is not always easy to have a phone conversation with a young child, but they will enjoy hearing you read them a story or sing a song. If you are planning to visit them, you can tell them all about how you are coming on an airplane or driving a long way to see them.

Once your grandchildren are in school, their lives become busier and more complicated. Finding the right time to call them that does not conflict with sports or other after-school activities becomes more difficult. My personal favourite way to keep in touch is with email. If you are comfortable using a computer, email can be an ideal way to connect. It is instant and up-to-date, but can be read whenever the recipient has time. Children love to receive emails and you can tell each other what is going on right now. You can send and receive digital photos almost instantly, so Gran can see the children dressed up for a special occasion, or share the fun of their birthday parties. If you or your family have a camcorder you can share videos as well.

There are e-cards on the internet for almost any occasion. My grandchildren enjoy the cards that have games and puzzles on them. Of course kids love jokes and riddles too. Ask them to send you some of their favourites.

If you have grandchildren in several different places, it can be fun to do a round-robin family email newsletter, with each family member adding a contribution and then sending it on.

Of course, regular mail is still an important and very useful way to stay connected. Parents can send your grandchildren's drawings, and any school work that the children are really proud of. You can send photos, birthday cards and gifts. I remember how excited my children were to get fat, brown-wrapped parcels from their grandparents in England -- they always contained something interesting and different. If you go on vacation, be sure to send lots of postcards that your grandchildren can put into a scrapbook for you.

If your grandchildren will be coming to visit soon, they will love to get photos of your house and some of the places they will see while they are staying with you. On the whole, though, they prefer to see pictures of you rather than scenery, so if possible, have someone else take the photos with you in them.

Most of us would much rather live close to our grandchildren and see them regularly, enjoying their hugs and their chatter. When circumstances take them, or you, a long way away, it feels so sad. Corresponding regularly is key to maintaining your connection. The anticipation of Gran‚s next letter or email keeps them involved and replying to you is good practice. If they learn to enjoy answering your letters, they are likely to remember to thank people for gifts and become good correspondents. This will put them ahead of the majority of young people ˆ and let's face it, good manners do still count.

I hope that these notes will give you some ideas of ways to stay close to your family even when you are far away.

© Gill Grigor 2007 Used by Permission.