Loving Long-Distance Grandparents Celebrate Grandparents Day

My grandparents were a big part of my life, even though they lived an eight-hour drive away. My parents have lived even farther away from most of their grandchildren. According to AARP’s 2012 grandparent study, we are not alone: 43 percent of grandparents have to travel 200-plus miles to see the grandchildren who live farthest from them. It was a challenge, but we spent most of our vacations with my grandparents. They also wrote us letters, and we talked regularly on the phone. These days, I know they would have been even more involved grandparents through the magic of technology.

American Grandparents and the Challenges of Distance

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If you are a long-distance grandparent, yes, you have a disadvantage in that you simply can’t spend as much time with your grandkids. But the secret to bonding with grandchildren is shared experiences, and you can still have those from a distance. Keep these things in mind:

  • Maximize the in-person visits you do have: Create shared memories, have new adventures, interact at your grandchild’s level, and find activities that light up their faces. Follow up with online scrapbooking together and discussions of the experiences you shared.
  • Use technology to supplement in-person visits: Use video chat (such as Skype, Facetime or Tango) to keep the visuals going and show each other what you’ve been up to, to read books to your grandkids, to “attend” their school programs or extracurricular activities, and to send pictures and videos about your life. Text or use social media with older grandchildren, and take advantage of online games and other apps that cater to grandparents. If you feel uneasy using new technology, try online or in-person technology training (or ask your grandkids to teach you).
  • Stay up on grandchildren’s activities: Parents hold the keys to this kingdom, so be sure to make it easy for them to inform you of events in your grandchildren’s lives. An online family calendar or website can help you keep up so you can wish your grandkids good luck before a ball game or congratulate them after a piano recital.
  • Go retro: A telephone call is still a good option. And try sending a letter or card via snail mail. Kids don’t get mail very often these days, so it’s extra special. I still have a letter from my grandfather — written on a piece of birch tree bark he had gathered at our farm. What a treasure!

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Above all, remember the key roles you play as a grandparent are those of patient listener and giver of unconditional love. Allow those qualities to erase the miles.

Infographic courtesy of closertothekids.com

Amy Goyer is AARP’s family expert and author of Things to Do Now that You’re a GrandparentFollow Amy on Twitter @amygoyer and on Facebook.


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