Are you a Long-Distance Grandparent? We are blessed to have all 3 of our grandkids VERY CLOSE to us. But for many, with our mobile society and our adult kids taking jobs all over the world, that is not the case. One of my favorite midlife bloggers, Caryn Payzant of The Midlife Guru, is a long-distance grandparent. She lives in California, while her grandkids live in Washington and Ohio. Although she is not having the “close in proximity” grandparenting experience she anticipated, she has found ways to stay connected to those she loves the most in the world. Here are her 5 Long-Distance Grandparenting Tips to Shrink the Miles Between You and Your Favorite Loved Ones.
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I anticipated with delight being a Grammie. After all, when your kids are all grown, moved out of the house, married, successful in their careers — what else could be better to look forward to?
I always planned that when I became a Grammie, I would be the kind of Grammie that was hands-on involved with my grandchildren’s’ lives. Babysit at least once a week to give the parents a free date night. Take my grandchildren on regular outings. Make and eat treats together. Create cute little projects. Go to their special events. Share secrets. Have sleepovers. You know– the memory making, good friend, always around, spoiler kind of Grammie.
Well, that was the plan—until reality set in. You see, my grandchildren — four adorable grandsons to date — live hundreds of miles away, making it nearly impossible for me to do all the things I had intended.
Due to circumstances out of my control, I have been relegated to long distance Grammie status. At first, I thought long distance grand-parenting was going to be a real drag. It was killing me not to be able to have play dates with my grandchildren. Then I decided, instead of wallowing in my predicament, I would get creative and establish ways that I could have the kind of Grammie-hood I had always envisioned while being miles away. Here are my Long Distance Grand-Parenting Tips; proven ways that have shrunk the distance and strengthened my Grammie ties:
1. Embrace Technology. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to have not have regular communication with my grandsons. Thank heavens for technology. Cell phones, tablets, and computers are my number one tools I use to hear and see my grandchildren on a regular basis. And it certainly helps that kids today learn pretty early how to use and enjoy these tools as well. FaceTime is our favorite. Not only do we talk and make funny faces, the boys share their school work and latest Lego designs, they give me a tour of their rooms and they show me what they are eating. They like me to show them when I put up my holiday decorations or what the sun looks like (since in Washington and Ohio they don’t get to see it much).
Skype is another great use of technology. After all, their motto is, “Wherever you are, wherever they are-Skype keeps you together.” Because you can add more people, it’s fun to get all the cousins together for a chat. The boys also like it when I read them stories. Skype allows me to use my hands to hold up the book and show the pictures as I read– just as if they were in person. The only part we are missing out on with Long Distance Grand-Parenting is having them cuddle up to me or sit on my lap.
2. Utilize Snail Mail- I know it’s old-fashioned, but who doesn’t like getting mail? I send cards for all holidays and I’ve even been known to make up special occasions just so that I can send something fun. Small packages are great to send too, especially if a birthday is a long ways off.
3. Create Reminder Cues. I’ve made visual and auditory reminders for my grandsons so that they can remember the sound of my voice or the look of my face when we haven’t communicated in a while. Of course pictures in frames, scrapbooks, or calendars are always welcomed. I’ve used templates on online sites like Shutterfly or Blurb to help me with my designs. Another favorite I made, using the site Heritage Makers, was a deck of playing cards using our family pictures as the faces for the cards. When they were younger, the boys used the cards for a matching game. Now that they are older, it is fun to use these cards to play “real” card games with them like War or Hearts.
5. Leave Momentos. When I visit, I bring “Grammie Gifts,” inexpensive gifts for each day of my trip. The dollar store is my favorite go-to place to buy these gifts. My Grammie Gifts usually follow a theme (holiday, season), and are something tangible to remember me and the things we did together during my visit. Things like a craft project or a game; baking supplies to make cookies; a book or a puzzle. Grammie Gifts are a great conversation starter for when I return home; ” How is the ….” Just another way to build on our memories until we see each other again.
While Long Distance Grand-Parenting isn’t my first choice, I’ve still been able to come up with some unique ways to stay connected with the most precious little people I know and love: my grandsons. Hopefully, someday, we will all live closer. Until then, I will keep doing my best to be a real presence in my grandsons’ lives as a Long Distance Grand-Parent.
Are you a long distance Grammie too? How do you manage your Long Distance Grand-Parenting?
***For a view from the “other side of Long Distance Grand-Parenting,” please check out an article my oldest daughter wrote on this topic a few years ago on her blog: the stationery place Being the mom of a long distance grandchild, she had a lot to offer on this topic as well.
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Caryn Payzant is your Mid Life Guru - an authentic and trusted mid-life voice sharing the wisdom gained in her first 50 years and adding to it new, relevant, and exciting information to get through the next 50 in the areas of Healthy Living, Lifelong Learning, Family Relationships, and Midlife Musings. She lives in Rancho Cucamonga in Southern California with her husband of 36 years, Kevin. They have 3 grown children, 2 sons-in-law, and 4 grandsons.