Although there are plenty of grandparents raising their grandchildren in person, long distance grandparenting is more common than it used to be. AARP reported in 2002 that about 50 percent of grandparents live more than 200 miles from their grandchildren.The average distance may have increased for several reasons: Grandparents often retire and move to warmer climates, parents are transferred all over the country and sometimes overseas because of their careers, and grandchildren spend time away during part of the year if mom and dad are split up.Grandparents, like Dr. Geri Foxs mother, are learning to adjust and bonding is happening from afar. Fox, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Illinois and a member of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, gives credit to her artist-mom for her daughters flourishing interest in art. Foxs mom cheered on her granddaughter's artistic flair by having the illustrations that her granddaughter mailed to her reproduced onto T-shirts and stationary."My daughter really felt that her art was encouraged and valued, and she is now doing art in college," says Dr. Fox.There are many other examples and ideas. Here are some offered through AARP.org (from Grandparents.com) and The National Long Distance Building Relationship Institute.
Get Online and Get Connected
Phone calls and cards are ways to let your grandchildren know you care and that you remember their birthday and other special occasions. However, being on the phone is a bit old fashioned. Today's communication involves email, texting and Skype.
Your grandchildren are most likely on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Most sites require children be 13, but parents can help hook you up with your younger grandchildren online. On these sites you can check out their friends, keep up with their daily lives, and send them messages if theyre cool with having their grandparent as a "friend."
Other online options for bonding with your grandchildren include:
- Forward sites you think they may be interested in like ones on photography if they love taking pictures.
- Play 20 questions similar to asking their favorite TV show and why. Share your answers also.
- Start a book club using Skype. Make sure to discuss books popular in her/his age group. Youll probably find you love her books as well.
- Share recipes and cook them while you chat on Skype.
Gaming and fantasy sports are also popular. If you're not sure how to play, ask your grandchild and s/he will love teaching grandma or grandpa about their online world. You can also challenge your grandchildren to online fun like sudoku, word jumbles, jigsaw puzzles, TV game shows like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, and board games of checkers and chess.
Options Beyond OnlineThere are just as many offline opportunities for bonding with your grandchildren. If you prefer the phone, make it fun for them to talk with you. Send a treat and have your son or daughter hide it somewhere in their house. Over the phone, give your grandchild hints to find it. Choose a day to do the same thing like "do something nice for someone" day and call to tell each other what you did and how you felt about it. Send an instructional video of something you both want to learn and work towards that goal from a distance but together.Children love thoughtful gifts that are personalized for them. Ideas include: Sew a quilt that includes their favorite baby blanket, squares from well-worn sports, camp and concert T-shirts, and photos of them and their artwork transferred to the squares. Make a book about their life so far, make up a story about them and illustrate it, or send a recipe book you put together if they love cooking. Share family history about relatives they want to know about. Keep a journal and both of you can add pages about what you learn when interviewing aunts, uncles and others. Find unique gifts that fit their interests like having a star named after your grandchild if they love the night sky.