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Taking the distance out of long-distance grandparenting

Being a grandparent is the best thing ever, and it’s even better when you’re close enough to see your grandkids a lot. Long ago, kids and grandkids usually grew up living and working in the same town as their parents and grandparents, so there were always opportunities for grandchildren and grandparents to spend time together and for grandparents to be a support to a busy household with active children.

These days, we are much more mobile and it’s not unusual for children and grandchildren to live many miles from “home,” maybe even on opposite coasts. It’s not like we can hop a plane twice a week to visit our grandkids, so plan B is to find resourceful ways to take the distance out of long-distance grandparenting. There are lots of ways you can grandparent from far away. Here are a few:

  1. Start with technology. You’re living in a world of cell phones and computers, and even though those are newer for us, our grandkids will be growing up with technology in their hands from very early on. Learn how to use Skype and FaceTime so you can have video contact with your grandchildren. A live video chat can make thousands of miles disappear while you enjoy interacting with them. You can even create some fun rituals around calls, like chats where you read to them, discuss their favorite hobbies, or complete a craft together at two separate locations, all through the magic of video technology. And be sure to learn how to text, as that is the primary way most tweens to young adults communicate. If you step into the basics of 21stCentury technology, you’ll find it easier to stay connected with your grandkids and enjoy each other from afar.
  2. Create photo albums. Even with digital photos you can create photo albums online and each of you add to them. There are plenty of free online album sites, like SmileBox and MyAlbum where you can make and share photo albums online. You can even create hands-on photobooks through online sites like Snapfish and Shutterfly. Photo books are so popular that even Walmart is making them.
  3. Share your own hobbies with your grandchildren and create special activities that are just for you and them when you do have opportunities to visit each other. In between visits you can discuss shared interests by phone or video chat. One fun idea is to create a "Grands book club" where you all get together on speaker phone or video chat to discuss a book that all of you are reading together. It’s a great way to interact with them and at the same time do a little sneaky teaching.
  4. Get a little old fashioned too. Hardly anyone sends snail mail with real stamps nowadays, so for grandchildren, this is a novelty. Keep those cards and letters flowing with fun stories of what you’ve been up to and questions about their daily lives. Letters and cards can become cherished mementos and carry fond memories for you both. Plus, you just might get some replies.
  5. Send them little things in the mail that let them know you’re thinking of them. They don’t have to be expensive. Maybe it’s one of those old-fashioned balsa wood airplanes fueled by rubber band power, or a gift card to a local ice cream shop their parents can take them to for a treat. Be creative and have fun with it. Just don’t go overboard. It’s the sweet little memories that stick in their minds, and yours, and bridge the distance gap.


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