According to a survey by AARP, 66 percent of grandparents have at least one grandchild who lives more than a day’s drive away. But with a little bit of creativity and disciplined effort, it’s possible for grandparents to maintain a close relationship with their grandchildren when they move away. This guide will tell you how.
With land phones, cell phones, the Internet, the ancient art of letter-writing and the good old post office, grandparents can stay in touch with their grandkids – and even create new traditions while living far apart.
When a family moves to a new city, the children are usually anxious about leaving their school and friends behind, so they don’t need their grandparents to add to the anxiety. So as a first step, it’s important for Grandma and Grandpa to remind the children that they can look forward to great visits together, but in the meantime, they’ll find new, fun ways to stay close.
Feeling close while living far apart
Here are a few ideas for your parents to share the journey and minimize the impact of the miles between everyone.
- If your parents don’t have a computer and don’t know how to use the Internet, now is the time for them to learn their grandchildren’s world of communication. Tap your parents’ motivation to stay in touch right now, by going off to the computer store together with the kids.
- Set up a routine of a weekly or bi-weekly phone call so that the children can look forward to talking to their grandparents.
- Have the kids and grandparents read stories to each other over the phone.
- Get a digital camera and email pictures of daily life, such as a homework assignment, something the dog did, or just a funny face to scare Grandma. The same goes for them. If digital isn’t their thing, buy them a bunch of single-use cameras and have them mail each one to you to develop.
- Write letters. There is nothing like getting mail from those you love – especially from grandparents.
- Be sure to make pictures or copies of homework assignments and artwork to mail to Grandma and Grandpa to put on the refrigerator.
- Most schools have assignments where you need to interview someone and write a report. Grandparents are a great source.
- Check out digital picture frames that will send a constant stream of new photos to your parents.
- You can also buy clocks and picture frames that have embedded computer chips. Your kids can record their greetings to Grandma and Grandpa. And your parents can do the same for the kids.
- When your parents visit, schedule a trip to school so that your children can show off their new school, new teachers and friends. Take pictures.
- Your parents can send care packages with some of the kids’ favorite candy, books, articles in magazines – little things that let them know they’re thinking of them every day.
All of you can make this work. But you’ll need to make a conscious effort to create and sustain new ways of communicating before you slip into a routine of typical bi-annual visits. It’s been said, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Let this absence make their hearts grow fonder still.
The bottom line
- According to a survey by AARP, 66 percent of grandparents have at least one grandchild who lives more than a day’s drive away. But with a little bit of creativity and disciplined effort, it’s possible for grandparents to maintain a close relationship with their grandchildren when they move away.
- It’s important to reassure the children that they will maintain a close relationship with their grandparents even while living so far apart. This will ease some of the stress from moving.
- Technology – including the Internet, cell phones and digital cameras – is one really powerful facilitator of a grandparent-grandchild relationship. Get your parents on board with simple technologies.
- Special touches are also helpful, including sending artwork and photos to the grandparents, sending and receiving letters, and scheduled telephone calls.