I grew up in a fairly stereotypical Irish and Italian family, which means the following…
Family get-togethers are never less than 30 people. Your first cousins (who all have a last name that end in a vowel) number into the double digits. Everyone talks too loud with exaggerated hand gestures. You live in the same neighborhood with at least two of your other relatives. When you get to high school all you hear is “are you related to….?” because no ones lives outside of the 15 mile invisible radius that encompasses your grandparents’ house, which is figuratively and literally the center of your entire (large and ever growing) family.
Ah, grandma’s house … knowing you were going to be spoiled for the next 4 hours! The smell of lasagna, the snacks before dinner, the roll of quarters in grandpa’s chest of drawers that he let you keep. Sleepovers where you stayed up too late, woke up too early and got to pick a recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. Grandma, with her supernatural culinary powers, would literally whip it up a few hours later. We saw my grandparents almost every day and certainly every week.
Today, things are very different. College pursuits and job opportunities have led us all across the country and we are no longer able to replicate the upbringing we had for our own children. While my children’s relationship with their grandparents will be different than the one I enjoyed, there are still plenty of opportunities to be close far away. It’s important for us to foster and grow this connection until our kids are ready to assume their own relationship with their grandparents.
Below are some ways to help today’s long distance grandparenting work.
It’s so easy (and free!). While visiting my in-laws, we set up a Skype account for them and organized it in a way that when we call them, all they have to do is “accept” in one quick, error-free move. If you have an Apple product, like an iPad or iPhone, FaceTime is another great option as well. Although the kids may become preoccupied with their own video image (zooming in on their own eyeball, running by the camera in a blur, or all out hiding from it), the use of video chat is the best way for little ones to connect a face, name and voice with their grandparents.
Old Fashioned Letters
Kids love to send and receive mail. Have them make something special for grandma and grandpa and send it to them. Or, let the kids write or draw on a postcard and mail a little something to their neck of the woods. If grandma and grandpa write back, the kids will surely squeal with excitement. Added bonus: they will want to retrieve the mail for you everyday.
A Blog or Website
Many people and families have blogs that they use to archive special moments and the mundane. Regularly posting on a blog or website gives grandparents a place they can regularly go to and get a glimpse inside their grandchildren’s lives.
A Shared Activity
Both grandparents and grandchildren can do the same activity like read a book, see a movie or go for a nature walk and describe their similar experiences to each other. While they won’t able to share the actual moment, they are able to share experiences about a common event or interest, giving them more to talk about other than “how’s school?” My son decided to connect with his long-distance grandparents by dropping their names in the ALS ice bucket challenge. It’s sure to be a chilly Christmas for him this year!
Of course, nothing beats an in person visit or vacation with the grands. But, there are ways to foster a strong bond and loving relationship when miles separate the hearts of the generation ahead and behind us. We can take the lead in showing our babes how much they are loved and adored and make sure our parents don’t miss out on watching their grandbabies grow.
What are some ways your family keeps in touch across the miles?