My first experience with being a long-distance grandma came in 2007 when our daughter and her husband returned to their home in Bosnia with their seven-week-old son. A friend saw the photos we took that day. “The grief is palpable,” she said.
A month later, my husband and I traveled to Bosnia. We loved on that baby every day … and then, of course, we had to fly home.
Circumstances changed. A few months later, our grandson and his mom and dad returned to the States … and moved in with us! Joy … and lots of fun and bonding. Then their little family found a place of their own about 20 minutes away.
I could handle that!
But now they are several states from us, a 12-hour drive if we push it. I’m a long-distance grandma once again.
Do you have a grandchild (or more than one) living far from you? In our mobile culture, most of us do. It’s not easy to be a long-distance grandparent, but we can still have strong, enjoyable relationships with faraway grandchildren if we put our minds to it.
Here are 5 tips for being a fabulous grandparent from a distance.
1. Believe that having a relationship with you is important to your grandchildren. All children benefit from the unconditional love and acceptance of a caring grandparent. A grandparent links a child to his family history. Plus, a Christian grandparent can influence the development of a child’s faith. When Pharaoh continued to harden his heart during the plagues God brought on Egypt, God told Moses,
“I’ve also done it so you can tell your children and grandchildren about how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and about the signs I displayed among them—and so you will know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 10:2).
2. Resolve to be proactive. OK–you don’t get to see your grandchildren as often as you’d like. But you don’t have to take a backseat in this relationship. Be the family matriarch or patriarch. Find ways to connect across the miles and do those things. Tell your grandchildren’s parents that this relationship is important to you and ask for their help. Initiate and persevere, without becoming overbearing.
3. Use technology to stay in touch. When my young grandson wants to “call G” (that’s my grandma name), he means he wants to Skype. Skype and other video calling programs let you hear AND see each other on your computer or mobile device. It’s easy to get started, and it’s free. You’ll need a web cam and a microphone–many newer computers have those built in or you can purchase them to plug into your computer’s USB ports.
Younger children won’t want to talk a lot every time you Skype together. Don’t worry. As they grow older, especially as you show sincere interest in their lives in this and other ways, they’ll be calling you.
Here’s another way to connect over the Internet. Reading together delights grandparents and grandchildren alike. I’ve tried it holding the book in front of the camera, but it’s awkward. This week I discovered Readeo. Here’s a short video to show you how it works. I have to say that I’m impressed and I can’t wait to try this out!
4. Stay on the hunt for new ways to connect with your grandchildren. Three good resources I’ve found are Long Distance Grandma by Janet Tietsort, The Long Distance Grandmother by Selma Wasserman, and www.AmericanGrandma.com, especially this post.
Ask other grandparents for ideas too. When I co-wrote Parents of Missionaries, I asked POMs with grandchildren to share ideas that had worked for them. Some of those I’m now using with my grandson, like making him a book with photos and captions from each visit that we have together.
Be sure your grandchildren have their own photos of you. One Christmas we gave our children photo portraits of my husband and me. Our grandson asked his mom if he could have it for his room. Even though he has since moved, the framed photo still sits on a shelf in his new room.
5. Pray, pray, pray. God has ordained the importance of grandparents. He will help you find the best ways for you to love, enjoy, and influence your grandchildren from a distance! (A good book to help you pray for your grandchildren is Grandma, I Need Your Prayers by Quin Sherrer and Ruthanne Garlock.)
DIANEVisit Diane at www.abibleplace.com © 2012, Diane Stortz