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The 7 Rs of Long-Distance Grandparenting

written by Kerrie McLoughlin
photos by Brandy Dykes Photography

Photo: Grandparents John & Becky Williams came to visit Eve, their Cypress based grand daughter all the way from Zambia, Africa. 

Most long-distance grandparents will agree that you don’t have to live in the same town to play a huge role in the life of your grandchildren. Yes, you might be sad that your grandkids don’t live close by, but you can certainly still create a special and lasting relationship with some planning. Here’s how:

Do Your Research

Joy Candrian of the blog XOXO Grandma suggests: “Research the places where your grandchildren live and when FaceTiming or talking on the phone, ask them intelligent questions about their home, school and the things they have done that week.” Another example might be checking out the latest children’s movie in your own town if you know your grandkids are going to see it as well so you can talk about the best parts together. 

Read to Them and Play Games

“Record yourself reading a book and then upload that recording to YouTube so your grandchild can hear your voice and see you reading them a story. After you’ve got your recorded story online, mail the book to your grandchild so they can follow along while they watch your video,” shared Candrian. Buy a blank puzzle at a craft store then, if you are arsty, draw a picture on it. If not, write a message and color in some of the pieces. Your grandchild will have a blast putting it together over and over. Online games like Words with Friends are also a fun and educational way to connect.

Recognize Holidays and Special Dates

Keep track of important dates so you can be there for the big events. Set reminders on your phone or put them on your wall calendar so you can send cards or plan a video chat for birthdays, graduations, last day of school, prom, sports, spelling bees and so much more. Candrian offers, “I think giving gifts is such a natural way to show we care, and giving a handmade gift [such as a quilt] shows we care enough to spend our time for those we love. Your grandchild may not understand that now but as they grow older and wiser, your gifts should help them feel the love you have for them.”

Raise Video Chatting and Social Media to a New Level

Skype, FaceTime and Zoom make it so much easier to see their faces and keep yours fresh in theirs. They grow and change so quickly, so make weekly dates to do things like call up the grandkids and take them on a walk with you, let them watch you bake something, read to them. One way my 90-year-old grandmother loves to keep up with her grandkids and great-grandkids is to hop on Facebook daily to check out status updates and photos.

Remembrances

Make sure you have plenty of photos of your grandchildren around your home and send photos of yourself to them as well. You want them to get to know you as well, and it’s so easy these days to create photo books and books of stories from your childhood for them on a site like Mixbook. Check out the Marco Polo app for a FaceTime meets voicemail experience, where you get to leave and receive video messages, and they don’t disappear… you can save them on Marco Polo indefinitely and also save them to your phone or forward them to other family members.

Plan Regular Visits and Special Trips

Carissa Jones, mom of 8, shares, “Both sets of grandparents take small groups of one to two kids home with them. My parents take the kids to their home for their 10th birthday and they have a special long weekend together that each kiddo has anticipated in the months leading up to their birthday.”  

Ready for a Fun Visit

When it’s time for the kids to come to your home, make sure you have a stash of games, books and universal toys (think Legos and Magnatyles) so they feel at home. Scout out local indoor trampoline parks, nature centers, kid-friendly restaurants and other activities that you can all do together during the visit.

Despite distance, you can form close bonds with your grandchildren and ensure you play a key role in their lives. Carissa Jones sums it up nicely: “I think much like parenting, relationships are built on the foundation of time together and on traditions.”


Kerrie McLoughlin is the writer mom of 5 kids ranging from 10 to 18 and blogs at TheKerrieShow.com.

Reading Resources

Connect with Your Grandkids: Fun Ways to Bridge the Miles 
by Cheri Fuller

Long-Distance Grandparenting: Connecting with Your Grandchildren from Afar 
by Willma Willis Gore

Virtual Grandma: A how-to guide on “virtually connecting” with little ones up to age five using FaceTime, Skype, and other apps 
by Alison Hillhouse

Long Distance Grandma: Staying Connected Across the Miles 
by Janet Teitsort

The Long-Distance Grandmother: How to Stay Close to Distant Grandchildren 
by Selma Wassermann

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