When grandchildren and grandparents live far away from one another, they have to work a little harder to maintain a strong relationship. Here are some ideas for nurturing this important bond, long-distance.Phone.
Plan a regularly scheduled phone time each week, such as Saturday mornings or Sunday nights. That way, phone calls are for updates, not crises. A speaker phone allows for conversation between several family members. As conversations with very young children are usually one-sided, grandparents can try singing or telling a story. Avoid asking "yes and no" questions. Instead try open-ended questions, like "Tell me about…" Put grandparents’ phone numbers on a push button on the phone, so young children can call anytime they feel like a chat. For older children, grandparents might schedule a call to just one grandchild at a time and not just for a birthday or special occasion.
Mail. Young children love receiving mail so frequent postcards, letters, cards, and packages are always welcome. Supply grandchildren with stamped, addressed envelopes for easy return mail. An Illinois grandmother sends a subscription to a children’s magazine to her granddaughter in Michigan. The three year old proudly brings past issues out whenever her grandmother visits. And the magazine's arrival is always a reminder of Nana. One grandfather knows his grandson’s passion is baseball, so he sends him appropriate articles, books and other items of interest on that subject regularly. Make letters fun by writing in secret code. Communicating by e-mail with older kids is a quick and easy way to keep in touch. For those grandparents who don’t know how, it’s worth learning (maybe your grandchild can teach you!).
Photos. Have photos of grandparents readily available. Indestructible photo albums can hold pictures for frequent viewing by young children. Display photos of grandparents in children’s rooms. One Philadelphia toddler, following the format in "Good Night, Moon," says goodnight to everything in his room each night—including a photo of his grandparents.
Audio tapes. Grandparents can sing, tell jokes, play a musical instrument, tell a story (how about when Mom or Dad was little?) or read a book aloud on tape to the delight of grandchildren miles away.
Videos. Exchange videos frequently. An annual videotape of all the best clips of the year makes a great gift for grandparents. Grandparents can send a video tour of their home before a visit or one showing highlights of their last visit.
Visits. Take part in each others’ everyday routines—grandparents visit their grandchild’s school; grandchildren do errands or visit Grandma at work. Have a special place in the grandparents’ house just for the grandchildren. A shelf, drawer, closet or room can hold age-appropriate toys, both new and those used by the child’s parent. Rituals are important in cementing relationships. Whenever an Arizona grandmother gets together with her Illinois grandchildren, they always make banana splits!