- The bad part: Americans are much more scattered from their roots than in times past, which means there are often many miles between you and your grandkids.
- The good part: If you live far from your grandchildren in this “digital” age, there are many more ways than in the past to effectively shrink the distance – to stay in touch, to influence, to share in their growth and development.
Tip # 1 – pick up the phone!
Perhaps you already make frequent phone calls to your son or daughter, and perhaps part of these calls are sometimes spent talking to your grandson or daughter. But imagine how special it would be if your grandchild knew that every Tuesday at 5 PM was their personal grandparent phone time, set aside by you for just him or her.
Over the years, this special time will become even more important, one they will anticipate. But to make it even more special:
- Plan ahead – Make sure you are ready for each call with questions to ask and interesting news to share. Put yourself in the mind of your grandchild. They are not as captivated by a conversation on your phlebitis or arthritis condition as they might to find out if Grandpa finished building the tree house, or to hear you recount the story of previous visits from the grandkids and what made that trip special for you.
- Be specific – General questions, like “How’s school?” or “How are you?” will test the limited patience of a small child (or of an emotionally edgy teenager). More specific questions indicate your interest in them – “Have you heard from your best friend Mary since she moved across town?” or “Your mom tells me that you got to pitch on your last Little League game. Did you get any strikeouts?” Questions like this will awaken their minds and encourage them to engage with you.
Tip #2 – Get visual
- We tend to remember our past best when there is an photo or video attached to the event. So, whenever you are together with your grandchild, make sure to take pictures or video that you can share with them later.
- Use those pictures and family movies not just for your own pleasure; share it with your grandchild. A simple card or letter with a photo included from their visit with you will help solidify that memory and make it extra special.
- There are many online websites you can use to upload photos or video, which you can then share access to with your grandchild.
- Using those same photo service websites (such as YorkPhoto.com, ShutterFly.com and SnapFish.com) you can easily transform photos into keepsake gifts. This can be as simple as a framed photo for the grandchild's bedroom. But you can also create a photo mug or custom photo book as a gift, including photo captions or other notes on the page. Imagine how special it would be for your grandchild to receive a commemorative photo book about their recent trip, such as “Billy’s Big Week Camping With Grandpa.”
Tip #3 – Use Social media websites
Tip #4 – Grandchild naming games
To make it memorable, make it a recipe (or whatever) that, by name, matches the first letter of grandchild's first name, or rhymes with it. Ideally, it should be something that genuinely connects to the child, such as a favorite recipe or favorite place of theirs.
Some examples to get your creative juices flowing:
- The “Zack Snack” or “Billy’s Banana Madness” or “Laura’s Loveable Lasagna”
- "Sam's Secret Hideout" or “Freddy's Favorite Chair"
Tip #5 – experiment with technology
A video chat is essentially a phone call that you do from your computer in which each person uses a web cam (a video camera hooked up to a computer or mobile device) and microphone so that they can, in real time, see and hear each other from across the state, country, or even across the world.
All it takes is a web-connected device with a camera and microphone, plus the free video chat software installed. And, just like that, your grandchild can show you the presents they got for Christmas, rather than just talk about it.
Do you have any grandparent tips of your own that have worked well for effectively shrinking the distance between you and your grandchildren? Please share! Use the comments field below to tell us about it.