10 Ways to Connect: Long Distance Grandparenting

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  • By Lisa DenHerder
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10 Ways to Connect: Long Distance Grandparenting

Distance doesn't have to destroy the invaluable grandparent-grandchild relationship. It is still possible to nurture a loving and close relationship, despite the miles.

10 Ways to Connect: Long Distance Grandparenting

Hearing yourself called “grandma” or “grandpa” is arguably one of life's greatest joys. There really is nothing like it! Grandparents get to be parents all over again, providing unconditional love and getting lots of love in return. We get to provide adventures and do "fun" stuff, like taking our grandkids on a hike, bike riding, baking cookies, going to ballgames and ice cream - the list goes on and on.

Unlike parents, who can't escape toddler tantrums, homework sessions and bedtime squabbles, grandparents can often just say, "I’ll get out of your way, see you later." 

With a busy life, grandparents often don't get to see enough of their grandkids. Even when they live nearby, there can be challenges getting time together - homework, sports practice, play dates, birthday parties and more can bump grandparents to the bottom of the priority list.

So, how can grandparents and grandkids stay close when they live just a few miles apart? How can grandparents who live in say, California, stay connected to grandchildren in South Dakota when they may only see each other once a year?

Distance doesn't have to destroy the invaluable grandparent-grandchild relationship. It is still possible to nurture a loving and close relationship, despite the miles. Follow these tips to help build a bond, no matter how far apart you live.


1. Use Skype or FaceTime.

Yes, seeing the grandkids on a computer or phone screen isn't the same as hugging or snuggling with them. But, video calls using Skype, FaceTime, Google Duo or similar services are a step up from phone calls. They allow you to see each other's expressions and surroundings and can often make you feel like you've actually been together. Grandparents and grandchildren can read books, sing songs and even play games as they see one another in real time. Set up weekly dates that everyone can look forward to and that can become part of a weekly routine. Spontaneous calls are great, too, when there's news to share, like some new soccer moves or a stellar report card. Just be sure the call is at a convenient time for everyone.

2. Read bedtime stories.

Grandparents can record themselves reading a favorite bedtime story. Then the parents can show the video to their kids as they follow along with the same book. If the child isn't comfortable with a change to the bedtime routine, try this activity during a reading session at another time of the day. 

        See our book selection for a new favorite.


3. Send snail mail.

Staying connected doesn't have to only be done the high-tech way. Grandparents can send a package every few weeks with simple contents like a coloring book or stickers, plus a note or card expressing their love for their grandchildren. Kids will love receiving even a small piece of mail like a postcard with their name on it from a grandparent.

4. Display photos.

Pictures of Grandma and Grandpa throughout the house keep their faces familiar. A digital picture frame can showcase a variety of images. Old photos can initiate a discussion about an event like Nana's wedding or a childhood family vacation.

5. Give a house tour.

Have Grandpa record himself in his surroundings, giving a narrative tour as he wanders from room to room in his home. Your child will love seeing where Papa eats, sleeps and watches television, and kids will feel more comfortable the next time they visit. Likewise, let your grandchild show you around their house! They will love telling you about their favorite toys, etc.

6. Share an interest.

Grandparents can purchase grandkids a subscription to a magazine (in print or online) and get the same one for themselves. When a new issue arrives, talk about it on Skype, FaceTime, or simply on the phone. Older kids can choose a book to read at the same time as a grandparent through an audiobook, or even try playing the same games online!

7. Create a photo album.

Kids can take pictures of their day then send the images to Grandma via text, email, or snail mail. Grandma can then print the photos and arrange them in an album. When Grandma is with the kids, they can spend time discussing the images.

8. Speak their language.

Older kids may want to  communicate with grandparents "their" way—via text or a social platform like Facebook or Snapchat. Talking, just the two of them, will likely make them feel special and more connected to you as a grandparent. Be engaged and follow up later on about things going on mentioned in the conversation (play practice, a math test, basketball tryouts, etc.).

9. Teach something new.

Grandparents can instruct their grandkids about something, even from afar. For example, Grandma can share how to make her famous banana bread. Text your grandchild (or their parents) the ingredients needed. Then the two can whip it up together over FacebookChats or a livestream like Google Duo. Add a dose of fun with songs, family stories and books about the recipe. Kids will likely open up and share their cooking experiences.

10. Play games.

You can play games even if you aren't together; that's the beauty of an online space. Play card games, crosswords, chess and more, all online through Apps like Words with Friends or Houseparty. Playing games will offer a shared experience and give grandparents and grandchildren something to talk about.


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