Long-Distance Grandparenting: Having an Impact Across the Miles

By Wayne Rice
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Girl talking to her long distance grandparents online
It would be wonderful if all grandparents lived near their grandchildren and had easy access to them, but in today’s world, that is rarely the case. If you are a long-distance grandparent, here are ten ways to stay connected.

One of the great joys of growing older is becoming a grandparent! And one of the great heartbreaks of grandparenting is being separated from your grandchildren for long periods of time as a long-distance grandparent.

Your grandchildren may live in another town, another state, or even another country. Maybe their mom and dad had to move because of a job opportunity or a military deployment. Or they moved to be closer to the in‐laws, had to find more affordable housing, better weather, better schools, or better doctors. 

Or maybe it was you who had to relocate, and you now find yourself far away from your children and grandchildren. Sometimes this happens by choice; sometimes out of necessity.

Or perhaps you have been forced to be a temporary long-distance grandparent due to the effects of COVID-19. You haven’t been able to spend time with your family due to quarantines and restrictions, or out of an abundance of caution.

Whatever the reason, you find yourself a long‐distance grandparent.

3 Options You Have While Being a Long-Distance Grandparent

Being a long-distance grandparent doesn’t mean you can’t be an intentional, biblical grandparent — one who wants to leave a legacy of faith and contributes regularly to the spiritual growth of your grandchildren. But you have a choice to make. You can either:

  1. Choose to let distance become an excuse for not being involved in the lives of your grandchildren. Since your grandchildren are so far away, you’re off the hook, so to speak. Sadly, many grandparents take this approach.
  2. Let distance become an obstacle that prevents you from being involved in the lives of your grandchildren. It’s too big to overcome. It stands in the way of your being the grandparent you would like to be.
  3. Or, you can choose to let distance become an opportunity for getting more involved in the lives of your grandkids in creative ways. Some long‐distance grandparents actually have a better relationship with their grandchildren than those who live close. The truth is, many grandparents take proximity to their grandchildren for granted. But intentional long‐distance grandparents are highly motivated to reach across the miles and stay connected with their grandchildren whenever they can.

10 Ways to Stay Connected as a Long-Distance Grandparent

It would be wonderful if all grandparents lived near their grandchildren and had easy access to them, but in today’s world, that is rarely the case. The chances are good that you are (or will be) a long‐distance grandparent. If so, here are just a few good ways to stay connected: 

1. Plaster Your Home With Photos and Reminders of Your Grandchildren.

After all, that’s what refrigerator doors are for! Ask your grandchildren (or their parents) to provide you with updated school and family photos as well as their artwork and other visual reminders of your grandchildren so that you can display them all over your home. If you see your grandchildren every day (even in pictures), you will be more likely to do this next step.

2. Pray Daily for Your Grandkids.

The most important and reliable connection between you and your long‐distance grandchildren is prayer. Even though you are far away from your grandchildren, prayer can bring you and your grandkids together in a significant and powerful way.  With God, there is no distance at all between you and your grandkids. Ask your grandchildren for prayer requests and let them know that you are praying for them. They may also want to pray for you.

3. Put the Grandkids on Your Calendar. 

Don’t let poor planning keep you away from your grandchildren. Life can get busy, even for grandparents! If you don’t plan to do something, it will likely not get done. So why not create a calendar, especially with your grandchildren in mind? When can you visit them? When can they visit you? What about phone or video calls? Will you do these on a weekly, bi‐weekly, or monthly basis? Do you have your grandchildren’s birthdays and other special days on your calendar? A little planning can go a long way toward bridging the long‐distance gap with your grandkids.

Grandmother and grandchildren playing in the garden

Resources for Grandparents

Find fun and practical resources to help you draw closer to your grandchildren

4. Put the Grandkids in Your Budget.

You can pretty much take it to the bank that the farther away your grandchildren live from you, the more expensive it will be for you to stay connected, especially if travel is involved. What you don’t want to do is give your grandkids the leftovers of your budget (you won’t have anything left).

5. Plan Regular Visits.

If you do have the time, energy, and resources to travel, skip the Bahamas and plan trips to see the grandchildren instead. Or, take the grandchildren with you to the Bahamas. Work with your grandchildren’s parents to visit at a convenient time and share expenses. Make your visits memorable, and your grandchildren will always look forward to them.

6. Arrange for Them to Visit You.

Sometimes it’s easier to bring the grandchildren to you than it is to visit them. Find out when the grandchildren have time off from school and other activities and make travel arrangements. Some long-distance grandparents plan annual “cousin camps” when all the grandkids come to grandma and grandpa’s house for a week of fun and family time.

7. Use Snail Mail.

Also known as the U.S. Postal Service, snail mail may be relatively slow, but it’s still something that we can use very effectively to stay in touch with our grandkids. Everyone loves to get something personal in the mail, and grandkids are no exception. Send letters, postcards, gifts, money, anything that can be mailed.

A weekly postcard from grandma or grandpa is an inexpensive and effective way to stay in touch. Get creative and let your grandkids know what’s going on in your life in 25 words or less. They will love it and look forward to each one.

8. Use the Telephone.

Most of today’s grandchildren have (or at least have access to) a phone that they can use to stay in touch with family and friends. So, make a habit of calling your grandkids regularly. If you can, call each grandchild separately so that they get your special attention. Keep a notebook and write down things you hear them say so that you can follow up the next time you call. You can pray for them on the phone and offer your blessing for them as well.

9. Send Text Messages.

While we’re on the subject of phones, most kids love to send and receive text messages. Short text messages let your grandchildren know that you are thinking about them and are willing to share your life with them as well.

10. Video‐Chat Your Grandkids.

Today’s technology makes it possible for you to have face‐to‐face conversations with your grandchildren on your computer, tablet, smart TV, or cellphone. Applications like Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Whereby, Facetime, and others are increasingly available and easy to use. If you are not familiar with using them, I would recommend that you learn as soon as possible. If you are not computer‐savvy, have someone else help you get a simple set‐up so that you can take advantage of this truly wonderful way to connect with your grandchildren.

Being an Intentional Long-Distance Grandparent

These are just a few good ways to reduce the distance between yourself and your grandchildren but remember — none of them happen automatically. They require that we catch the vision for biblical, intentional grandparenting and put them into practice regularly. It is possible to share God’s love with your grandchildren, no matter how far away they may be.

© 2020 by Wayne Rice. All rights reserved. 

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