Grandparenting Long Distance
Grandparenting Across The Miles
Seven years ago, I lived within ten minutes of my grandchildren and was an integrated part of their lives. My husband and I attended our grandchildren's church and school functions, sporting events and took them exciting places like the zoo. We were weekend overnight babysitters. Every holiday was spent creating and building family moments, birthdays were celebrated together; and yes, we helped love them through many a childhood illness.
I didn't foresee being a long-distance grandparent. My husband came home one day and announced he was offered a poisition that required a move across the country. I was devastated to say the least. I knew we had to accept this opportunity but how could I ever remain a part of my grandchildren's lives?
The first year of separation from our grandchildren was the hardest. I spent many days crying, wondering how they were doing and imaging how lost they were without our help. I had to be strong when we talked over the phone by talking about our new home adventures and how we looked forward to their visiting us soon. We were fortunate enough to be able to get back home to visit them often the first few years. They also traveled with their parents to see us during the major holidays and spring breaks. This helped all of us transition into our new long-distance relationship over time.
Grandparenting and Home Visits
Our grandchildren are older now and due to lifestyle changes we are not able to travel as much these days. However, we are fortunate to have the use of technology to bridge the gap between us. We use our iphone's face-to-face option to talk on occasion. Our grandchildren think it is quite fun to walk around the home while chatting and show us their rooms, new toys (our gamer grandson plays wii for our viewing), the cat and other interesting items. And truthfully, we are there with them!
I'm sure many of you also take advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other social media to keep in touch with grandchildren. Isn't it wonderful that you can see them through parent postings on a daily basis and hear all about what's happening in their life? I have albums of stored pics on file that make me smile each time I bring them up on my computer or iphone. My ipad's wallpaper is updated with their latest pictures almost weekly.
However, the most exciting communication tool we have, and one we're glad we invested in, is our computer webcam. Many newer models already come with this feature. If you have the capability, for a reasonably low cost you can install one on any computer. The cost is minimal, practically zero, since it is included in your service provider's monthly fee.
We enjoy being able to talk to each other and see one another in this real time fashion. The software we have allows us to send nudges, winks, write and draw. I've included a picture of a recent conversation I had with my granddaughter that depicts Christmas drawings and a short story we started. (You can see how involved she is in typing on the keyboard...head down and focused!) We plan on continuing the story over the next few weeks and then compiling our writings for a book. As an added incentive, this is a great way for her to polish her creative writing and typing skills.
Our latest trend is to read a book over the phone. My granddaughter and I just finished a mystery and are ready to begin the next book in the series. I have been reading for the most part but I think next time I will get her to read as well. Of course this means we will have to go to the library and check out the same book (Grandma researching in the juvenile section should be fun!). How's that for encouraging a love for reading?
I realize not everyone is able to take advantage of technology to keep in touch with grandchildren but for those of you who can it is worth the cost, time and effort. It makes the long-distance relationship much closer and grand-parenting enjoyable.
Connecting With A Grandchild
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Closing The Gap
Reflecting back upon what keeps our relationship strong in spite of the distance, I came upon some key learnings. First, we take lots of pictures during visits of which we keep a copy and send them the originals for their keepsake. A picture speaks volumes to a child by providing visual comfort and affirmation of your love. We spend time playing together indoors, outdoors, in the morning and evening, at whatever activity they desire. Our grandchildren love being outdoors and I can remember hours playing in the sandbox, pushing them on the swings, playing at the park, and just watching them play.
We listen. A grandparent's pleasure is hearing a child tell them about their day, share a silly secret, read a book or just tell a joke. We send them "love" packages filled with little surprises like books, toys, crafts (and, sorry, against parent's wishes, candy), and games on their birthdays, for holidays, and just for no reason at all. Lately, my husband includes a letter to my older grandchild, who is a boy and "pre-teen", with bits of wisdom from his life. I guess it's kind of a passing of rites.
I am so blessed to have these grandchildren in my life and thankful for their parents who encourage the bonding between us. My husband and I want to remain a vital part of their growing years. We consider it a privilege and an obligation to role model the impotrant things in life: love, faith, family and communication. Grand-parenting long-distance has been a challenge but we know that in the end it will make a difference.