I’ve never met anyone who said, “I wish I’d never had grandchildren.” If you’re a grandparent you know that having grandchildren is one of Life’s Greatest Blessings. But, what if your grandkids live far away? How do you handle Grandparenting from a Distance?
For me, I have three grandchildren: two grandsons that live walking distance from my house and a granddaughter who lives in Newfoundland.
Long distance grandparenting is just a fact of life. Most grandparents live an hour or more away from their grandkids. This distance creates challenges for grandchildren and grandparents to bond.
Below, I have several creative ideas to help you grandparent from a distance.
1. Take a Picture of You with Your Grandchildren
This past summer my daughter and her family came home to Texas for my Mom’s funeral. While they were here I made sure my husband and I took a picture of us holding our granddaughter. It was nothing fancy. Just me and my husband smiling while holding our granddaughter in our backyard.
I had the photo printed locally at Walgreens and sent it home with my daughter. Now it sits on my granddaughter’s bedroom dresser. She has a daily reminder of two loving grandparents.
(Totally a side note ~ This photo hangs on the wall of my daughter’s furnished rental home. I’ve been looking for a way to use it for a year. Isn’t it a hoot?)
2. Be Prepared for Online Chats
We try to have a weekly online FaceTime (or Skype) chat with our granddaughter. I try to be a little prepared so I can entertain her with something appropriate for a two year old. In order to do this I keep a basket with toys and books in my home office. That way, I can reach in and pull out a puppet or the occasional balloon. These are highly entertaining to a two year old and together we are creating memories across the distance.
I am now seeing how valuable this really is because recently our granddaughter came prepared to our chat with her own balloon which she wanted to show us.
3. Send Small Gifts
If my granddaughter lived an hour away I might send her small, inexpensive gifts on a regular basis. Something fun like a little Halloween candy or I might make a card with a special love note enclosed. Simple and inexpensive ways to stay connected. However, my granddaughter lives in Canada and that makes it difficult to send her little happies.
Because it is so expensive to mail packages to Newfoundland, I’ve found that Amazon.ca* (Amazon in Canada) is a great way to send books and small items. The exchange rate is currently in my favor so the Canadian Amazon price converts to a lower price and this offsets the additional tax costs. I could splurge and get Canadian Amazon Prime which includes free shipping, however, I am willing to pay the small shipping fee or wait and order $25 to get free shipping (which is really less than $25 because of the exchange rate.)
When I send larger packages through Amazon Canada, I get my daughter to spread out the gifts. That way my granddaughter is getting something from us every week or so.
*Note: Watch out for foreign transaction fees with your credit card. My credit card does not charge these fees; be sure to check before using your card on a foreign transaction.
4. Daily Video
I’ve been thinking of doing this for my granddaughter now that she’s a little older. Just a quick smart phone video from me to her telling her I love her, miss her, and can’t wait to chat. This is ideal for older grandkids who may have their own cell phones, too.
You might share a special thought, something you have planned for the day, or even a bit of family history such as, “Today is your great grandfather’s birthday and he is 89 years old.” Send them a daily phone blessing. Read a Bible scripture. Share a funny story or joke. It doesn’t have to be epic; it just has to be.
To do this regularly I recommend you set up a selfie stick with a tripod (affiliate) and have it ready to go. All you need to do is clamp on your smart phone, make a quick video, and send it in a text.
5. Do a Project Together
If you only see your grandchildren once or twice a year working on a project together would be a great way to bond. You could build up the excitement in online chats leading up to a visit.
Prior to a visit send something that you can make together. In my case, prior to a visit I might send items for a sewing project that my granddaughter and I could do together when I visit. Anything is possible. Think about your grandkid’s interests and then put together a project idea. I promise, it will be an experience they will remember long after you return home.
6. Read Together
Once a week we try to FaceTime (or Skype) with our granddaughter. We usually chat from the computer in our home office. In the corner of the office I keep a basket with books which I rotate regularly. Whenever my two year old granddaughter and I are Skyping, I will pull out one or two of the books to read. She always says, “Again!” It’s becoming a thing we do together regularly and I know she looks forward to it.
As my granddaughter gets older and learns to read, I think we will read the same book and then discuss the book together. This doesn’t have to end with childhood either. Both of my grown daughters share their love of books with their grandmother.
7. Write a Story Together
Writing a story together could be a fun email project for older kids. You write a bit of the story then send it to your grandkids.They write the next part of the story, and so on. Think about how fun it would be just naming characters with your grandkids. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, it just has to be a bit of them.
Scanners and smart phone images could be a way to illustrate your masterpiece. And, it could be a great way to share family history by using old family photos as a jumping off point. Think of all the possibilities.
8. Grow a Plant Together
There are a couple of ways to grow plants together. You could plant some easy-to-grow seeds like radishes in a planter or garden at your home then share daily phone calls, texts, or email reports on the gardening project. If you live in similar climates this could be a joint effort across the miles with daily progress reports shared on how each person’s plants are doing.
I have a friend whose father grew watermelons for his two granddaughters. While visiting her parents, my friend’s father planted watermelon seeds in his yard with her girls. He then sent his granddaughters regular watermelon reports. Once the watermelon was ripe, he actually packaged it up and mailed it to his granddaughters. Needless to say, it was a huge hit!
9. Life Lessons
If you’re a parent then you know how difficult it can be to teach your kids Life Lessons that help prepare them for adulthood. Things like Money Management, Sportsmanship, Dining Etiquette, or even Ballroom Dancing (we’ll admit to dancing with our grandkids!) can be hard to pack into daily life. Use your life-knowledge to share these things with your grandkids.
Plan ahead for annual visits or online chats and share some of your wisdom. It doesn’t have to be a formal lesson ~ just a little piece from your life.
10. Create Unique Traditions
When we were on vacation in Newfoundland visiting our granddaughter, I purchased this puffin (and a moose). Everywhere we went I took pictures of places we visited with either the puffin or the moose and sent them to our grandsons. When we got home they got the stuffies as a gift. It was a fun way to let them be a part of our trip.
Think of your own quirky traditions and let your grandkids participate, too.
Bonus Tip: Hold their hand, but let them lead the way
Your grandchildren are always telling you who they are and what interests them. Listen to them. Learn what interests them. Let them lead the way, and then find opportunities to share in their life.
Now, it’s your turn to share some of your best Tips for Grandparenting from a Distance!