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Miles and Smiles: Long-Distance Grandparenting Success Strategies

Staying connected to your grandchildren can be easier than you thought.

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children. Deuteronomy 4:9

Back in the 90s (as my grandchildren would say), families had more extended time together. They were able to eat Sunday lunch together, attended the same church, never miss a basketball, football game, or soccer game, or dance recital. These days are different. Many families live on different sides of the country and struggle to see one another even once a year. Holidays are few and far between and the time together is short. The children feel like Grandma and Grandpa are just two old people who live very far away and they rarely see.

 But grandparents feel very differently about that. They miss their grandchildren when they don’t get to see them and long to be involved in their lives. Grandparents want the next generation of their families to know who they are. We don’t want “Mimi” and “Pops” to be just names spoken in their homes occasionally.

If you are one of those families who are separated by long distances, what can you do about it? Thanks to technology, we can keep in touch more than ever before. Here are a few suggestions to stay close during times of separation.

Bridging the Gap: Long-Distance Grandparenting Tips

Set a time to communicate. Set a time every week to chat. This could be by telephone, by facetime on your phone, or by computer video. The grandchildren will love seeing your faces and you will love to see them as they grow.

Occasionally, read them a bedtime story. Arrange with the parent to call right at bedtime and choose one of their favorite books. Read it to them and concentrate on animating your reading.

Have a talent show. Give them several weeks to get their acts ready. Decide whether the rules will allow more than one grandchild to work together on one act or not. Perhaps you can let each family do one act.

Even though it is a bit old-fashioned, grandchildren love to get mail from the grandparents. Put a little surprise in a card letting them know how much you love them. Small coloring books, colored pencils, a small craft kit or even just a dollar are fun surprises for your grandchildren. Make sure the surprises are age appropriate. Once your grandchildren are older, they would probably prefer money so they can buy gas or food after school. (You might want to adjust the amount as a dollar won’t buy much gas!)

Creating Memories from Afar: Long-Distance Grandparenting Strategies

Play a game of Bingo. Print Bingo cards and either mail them or send them by email to everyone in the family. Tell them ahead of time so parents can explain how the game works. Make sure you have enough pennies, kernels of corn, small pieces of paper or whatever you will use to cover your numbers. That will give everyone a fair start to the game.

Have a fashion show. Good materials to use for the fashion show are toilet paper, duct tape, leaves, or napkins. The costume must be made totally of the one material that is chosen for the show. Do not tell what the costume will be used for. Let the guessing be part of the show.

Eat supper together. Plan a time when each family will be eating supper together. Coordinate your times and plan to eat with the phone or computer on the table. That way you can have dinner table conversation as well as having a social time together.

When You’re Nearby

If you are lucky enough, as we are, to have your children and grandchildren live close by, here are a few things you can do to grow your relationship with your grandchildren.

Have them come visit often at your house. That may happen in a form when you pick them up at school and help with homework or a weekend spend the night party. You don’t have to plan lots of adventures or excursions. Just let them enjoy being together.

Occasionally invite them to a movie, to play putt putt, go to a play, or visit a museum.

Always put their school programs, sports matches, and social events on your calendar. You will not be able to attend every one but you can call and wish them good luck and let them know you wish you could be there. If possible have their parents video the action and send it to you. Then you can see the important part and talk with your grandchild about how well they did.

When they are sick, drop a package of popsicles by their house. At our house we call them “magic” popsicles because popsicles always make you feel better. If your children can’t eat popsicles, make a get well package from the dollar store which will give them something new to do while they are recuperating.

If you are welcome at your grandchild’s school, go eat lunch with them once or twice a year.

Shopping Trips

When your grandchildren have a big event or trip coming up, take them shopping and buy something they will need on their trip. If they have everything they need, slip them a little extra money in case they need to buy a snack or want to buy a t-shirt. Back to school in the fall is a great time to take them shopping and buy a new outfit for the first day of school. Even if you don’t live nearby, you can find out sizes from their mother and send them a new outfit or some new shoes they want in the mail.

Be the substitute carpool pick up person. It’s amazing how much grandchildren and children talk when they get in the car after school. It’s great to hear what they have to say about their day, their friends, and their teachers. Sometimes they even talk about their problems and you have an opportunity to pour your wisdom into them and guide them about the things God has taught you. If you pick them up, be sure to bring a snack basket or offer to take them for their favorite fast food snack.

Often I hear my friends say, “Well, if it wasn’t for my grandmother’s prayers, I’d probably have been in a lot of a trouble.” That is true for many of us. We know that our grandmothers prayed for us regularly.

It’s not just the prayers that make the difference although praying is the best thing you can do for your grandchildren. The little things we have talked about make a huge difference in your relationship with your grandchildren. They learn you care about them and about making your relationships strong. They know you are interested in their activities when you attend them or call to find out how everything went.

No matter how you do it, keep your relationship strong with every grandchild you have. You’ll never regret it. And, if you have a friend who left grandchildren behind when she passed away, take time to include him or her every now and then on one of your outings. You’ll be doubly blessed!

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