Grandparents play a special role in a child's life. They provide unconditional love, encourage imagination and play and support a child's dreams and ambitions. When a grandparents live in the same neighborhood as their grandchildren, or even just in the same state, they can visit frequently and spend fun days out together, making memories that will last a lifetime. However, this is a little more difficult for grandparents that live far away from their grandchildren.
Just because a grandparent lives in a far-away state or even another country, it doesn't mean that they can't make a lasting, loving bond with their grandchildren. Especially with today's technological advancements, there are plenty of meaningful ways that grandparents can connect with their grandchildren that are creative, unique and memorable.
Schedule Skype calls
Long-distance grandparents of today have more tools at their disposal to to bridge distance than the grandparents of yesteryear! Video chat programs like Skype make it easy to talk with grandchildren and see their smiling faces. Schedule regular video chats with a grandchild, and choose a time that will be convenient and uninterrupted, like after dinner on a school day or a Sunday afternoon. The advantage video chat has over telephone calls is that the child can see their grandparents' faces and expressions, which helps develop a strong bond, especially during the child's younger years. Another great benefit of video chat programs is that the grandparent and grandchild can do activities together at the same time, just as if they were actually with each other. Try reading the same book over Skype, enjoying milk and cookies together or playing the same board game. Even though the interaction is through screens, memories are still made.
Send heartfelt letters
For all the wonders of technology, there's still a whole bunch of charm in a handwritten letter. Even today's digitally skilled kids will become excited once they see a letter for them in the mail! Every month, write and send the grandchild a letter. Grandparents can write about how much they love and miss their grandchild, and can also write about their daily lives or about funny or interesting things that happen to them. But they shouldn't worry too much about the content. As Grandparenting.org noted, "Young kids like the thought more than the content. Just the fact they receive a letter is more important than what is in it." For an extra surprise, include a small trinket with the letters, like a sheet of stickers or bookmark, or even a funky pen that the children can write their next letter with. By regularly corresponding with grandchildren, grandparents keep up a constant connection with them and enjoy the excitement of waiting for a letter to arrive.
Grandparents can also modify this idea by sending lots of little postcards to grandchildren and having them send ones back. Small postcards are easier for young children to write and draw on, and can be sent quickly and cheaply. A postcard in the mail every week is a great treat to look forward to!
It's important for young children to frequently see photos of their grandparents to develop a strong emotional bond despite the physical distance. By regularly sharing photos with each other, grandparents also get to watch the children grow. Grandparents.com suggested buying two disposable cameras, keeping one for yourself and mailing the other to the child with a note that encourages him to take photos throughout his day. Ask him to take photos of his school activities, his pets and his adventures, and send the camera in a stamped and pre-addressed padded envelope so the grandchild can easily send the film back to you. Grandparents should take photos of their activities and daily life, too, and send the photos to the child so he can see what Grandma or Grandpa is up to.
Plant a birthday tree
Nancy Kalish at Psychology Today had the great idea for grandparents to plant a tree in their yard when a grandchild is born, or to commemorate another birthday. Each year, grandparents can take a photo of the tree and send it to the grandchild so he can see the tree grow over time. And when the child comes to visit, grandparents can also take a picture of him standing next to his birthday tree to record how they are both getting bigger.
Long-distance grandparents don't have to worry. With these simple ideas, they maintain a deep bond with their grandchildren.