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

>> 12 Ways to Cyberproof Your Smartphone

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!

>> Get travel discounts with your AARP Member Advantages.

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.


Also of Interest


See the  AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more.


Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
February 04, 2016 09:00 AM
When Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I knew he would need all of his senses to help interpret the world around him and balance his changing cognitive abilities. But he has hearing impairment and limited vision (glaucoma plus visual-processing problems associated with Alzheimer’s). Even though there is only so much I can do about the visual issues, I assumed  hearing aids would solve his auditory problems. I was wrong. The good news is that we eventually discovered a surprisingly simple solution.
February 01, 2016 10:00 AM
The phone rang one day when I was at work. It was my mom. “Come right away, Elaine, we need you,” she said. Mom had just driven Pop to the emergency room. I knew Pop must have been very sick, because Mom hadn’t driven a car in years.
January 21, 2016 01:00 PM
I have been both a live-in caregiver and a long-distance caregiver. In fact, currently, I’m really both. My dad lives with me (as do my sister and her two sons at the moment), and I also travel for work, about a week every month. I’ve learned to manage my loved ones’ care no matter where I am. Here are some of my tips for other long-distance caregivers.