The 40+ million grandparents in the U.S. play a meaningful part in their grand-children's lives by giving unconditional love, support, and a living view of bygone days. But, can this special bond survive if the grandparents live far away from their grandchildren? Some parents told me how the glue between grandparents and grandchildren is kept strong, despite the long distance between them.
One couple recently moved to my neighborhood with their two young children, Seth and Shanna. Their father audits nuclear power plants and is currently inspecting operations at Davis-Bessie Nuclear Power. Seth and Shanna's grandparents live faraway, but they make every visit count. Both kids spend a week each summer visiting their grandmas and grandpas, who pre-plan activities they know kids their age love, like horseback riding, putt-putt, and touring an amusement park. When I asked Seth to describe his grandparents, he said, "They're coooool!"
The parents I talked with enjoy the quality time grandma/grandpa spend with their kids. It seems since grandparents aren't to busy supporting them, they can enjoy them better. I guess when we can finally afford to have children, we'll be having grandchildren.
Despite the miles separating grandparents from grandkids, creative use of tape recorders, camcorders, computers, and letter-writing can enhance the special bond. Kids love stories and grandparents can record funny family stories, or popular children's short stories onto tape cassettes or audio CD's. They can become "CD pals" as well as pen pals to their grandkids. A growing number of grandparents and grandkids know how to use the Internet to send email. Both can learn to send photos, colorful type, clipart pictures, and more to write fun notes via the internet.
Heck! Why not have weekly video-conferences with a webcam...helloooo facebook and SKYPE! Grandparents and grandkids can use the webcam to join in everyday events, like drawing a picture while grandma watches, then holding it up to the webcam for her to see it. Using a FREE webcam, children have played games with grandparents, like "Twenty Questions" or figured out crossword puzzles. Children’s story books can be read over the webcam as well. Your children can even eat dinner with grandma's company on the webcam, or invite their grandparents to join a birthday party online.
Back to old fashioned letter writing- children love to get mail, as in snail mail. Letters or packages should be sent directly to the grandchild, garnished with colorful stamps, fancy stickers, and all the trimmings. A regular system of letters from grandma/grandpa makes children feel special and also makes visits and telephone calls more rewarding.
Sending homemade videos keeps a vivid memory alive in the grandchild's mind. One family I interviewed received a video from the grandparents, but grandma altered her appearance slightly. Their four-year old daughter exclaimed, "Look! Gram's hair got blond!"
Seven-year old Emily and brother Noah, children of a couple I interviewed, prove grandparents don't have to give expensive gifts to retain the special bond. Grandma gave them a box of her old mementos, including a passe fur collar made from fox pelts, complete with tails, ears, and eye slits. Emily described it to me with a look of fascination, "They're dead...but the bodies are still there!"
Grandchildren like Seth, Shanna, Emily, and Noah will carry the special bond they have with their grandparents into their adulthood and deliver it someday to their own grandchildren. Plant a seed- stay close to your grandkids even if they're far away...they'll always remember your cared enough to try.
Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. has retired from his positions of School Psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership & Policy Studies at Bowling Green State Univeristy. A portion of Ad sale revenue from this site is donated to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. Concerns about family, parenting, educational or personal issues? Contact him on the secure Bpath Mail Form.