Fabulous Grandparenting from a Distance

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.)


Visit Diane at www.abibleplace.com
© 2012, Diane Stortz

Easter candy: Are there any healthy choices?

If the Easter Bunny visits your house, you may be wondering what kind of candy he will bring. By nature, all candy contains sugar, and maybe preservatives, artificial colorings, and/or unhealthy fats. But thankfully, some kinds are a smidgen healthier than others.

If candy is part of your Easter plans, here are my “a little-bit-better-for-you” ideas for older children and adults:

PayDay® bars have peanuts as the first ingredient, not sugar. They have no artificial dyes and the snack size bars have less than 100 calories each.


Goobers® contain peanuts, too, although milk chocolate is the first ingredient. The label boasts 5 grams of protein per ¼ cup serving. They also contain real cocoa, unlike some chocolates.

Raisinets® get some of their sweetness from raisins (yay, fruit!) Again, they contain cocoa.

Hershey’s® kisses® and Hershey’s ®Milk Chocolate Eggs™ are packaged in child-sized portions, with only about 25 calories per piece.

A few traditional Easter sweets contain sugar and corn syrup as the first two ingredients: jelly beans and colored marshmallow animals. One kind of jelly beans I checked listed 10 dyes in the ingredients. Yikes! Any artificially colored candies contain dyes, so even though they’re pretty to the eyes, they are not healthy. When in doubt, read the ingredients list.

Beth Bence Reinke, MS, RD (registered dietitian)


CAUTION: As noted above, these candy suggestions are for older children. Keep in mind that nuts, raisins and small, hard or chewy candies are choking hazards for babies, toddlers and even some preschoolers. These foods may be dangerous for any child whose ability to chew and swallow are not completely developed. In addition, anyone with food allergies must check product labels carefully. And to avoid cavities, kids should brush their teeth after eating candy.  

And of course, a disclaimer: I have no connections to the candy companies represented and these opinions are my own.

Teachable Moments: Lost and Found Bunny

My daughter’s independence-driven, unsupervised bedtime routine went smoothly. Bath? Done. Jammies? Check. Bedtime snack? Finished. She even helped herself to a drink from the refrigerator without spilling!

Marching proudly upstairs to bed she climbed under the covers. I settled in next to her and started reading from Little House on the Prairie when suddenly, panic rolled over her little face.

“My bunny! Bunny is gone!” she cried with big tears rolling down her little pink cheeks.

“Where is she?” I asked.

“I don’t know. She’s just gone!” she sobbed.

Calling for bunny like she was a beloved family pet, our family’s frantic search began. We searched the bathroom, under the bed, the closet, her dresser, laundry piles, behind the couch, and even in the garbage. EVERYWHERE! No Bunny.

“Oh, dear God please help us find Bunny! Please!” I prayed.

“Did you have Bunny when you poured yourself a drink?” I asked.

She thought a minute and shook her head “yes” and flung open the refrigerator door.

Bunny sat chillin’ on the top shelf next to the juice carton staring back at her with a frozen smile.

“You silly little bunny!” she exclaimed snatching lost-and-found Bunny off the shelf.

I’m especially fond of this memory because God taught our family three things:

  • No concern is too small for God. Although our children feel small, they need to know that if something’s important to them, it’s important to God, too.
  • God shows up ̶ present and alive–when we call on His name. Teaching our children to pray, even in the small things, allows them to see God at work in their lives.
  • When we’re lost, God stops everything to look for us. Seizing these teachable moments helps children tangibly grasp God’s love for them.

Kindness is Contagious

Where I live in South Florida, drivers are not known for being kind. Whenever I back out of my driveway, I know it will only be a matter of time before someone will cut me off or honk at me. Every once in a while, however, a kind driver motions for me to merge into the long line of traffic and allows me to cut in front of her. Aaaah! The endorphines rush through my body, and  I can’t wait to extend the favor to another driver. Why? Because kindness is contagious!

This is a concept that needs to be taught to children at an early age. Toddlers are not known for being kind and genreous. They want what they want when they want it. Then need to be taught how to share and honor others because it does not come naturally.

Kindness is contagious is the idea being my book The Boy on The Yellow Bus. The story begins with Sam, a new boy in town, boarding the yellow school bus and wondering where he will sit. When a young boy offers to share his seat with Sam, Sam is grateful and a chain reaction of kindness begins. Sam then helps Sue, who dropped her lunch box in the mud. Then Sue shares her lunch with Brian, and Brian sticks up for Kim on the playgound, and Kim helps her mother after school.  And that’s the way the whole day went—and that’s how kindness starts. When someone cares and someone gives it blesses people’s hearts.

The next few pages remind us that we should be kind and share because that is what God wants us to do. Another good reminder is included in a verse that says: Sometimes people never see the good things that you do. But God sees every single time and He is pleased with you.

Picture books are a great way to teach children many of life’s lessons. They give concrete examples and visual lessons in an enjoyable and entertaining format. And when the stories help little ones learn more about how God wants us to live–it all has a greater purpose.

The best way to teach your children to be kind is to model it. So when you are out and about today, let someone cut in the long line of traffic and start a chain reaction of kindess.

Love your little ones. Pray with them. And read every day.



What Are They Thinking?

Have you ever walked in on a mess involving your child and asked, “What were you thinking?

Your little girl may be the spitting image of her mother. Your little boy may be a chip off his father’s block. But children are not just little versions of adults. And that goes for the way they think, too.

Jean Piaget  was one of the first to systematically study children’s cognitive development. Before Piaget, most people believed that children thought like adults, but because of their age, they just weren’t as good at it.

Piaget concluded there are four stages of development:

1.  Sensorimotor

From birth to approximately 2 years old, children learn through trial and error.

 2.  Preoperational

From approximately 2 through 7 years old, children begin to use language to communicate. They also use begin to use their imagination. But at this stage they do not yet clearly understand cause-and-effect, and they struggle with logic. Children in this stage are often egocentric. Their approach to life is “It’s all about me.”

 3.  Concrete operational

School-age children through approximately 11 years old begin to learn logic. They have an increased awareness of external events and they are beginning to process abstract ideas.

4.  Formal operational

Children 11 years and older, entering adolescence, have the potential for moral reasoning. They are developing the ability to process abstract logic and they can understand cause-and-effect relationships.

Why should these stages matter to us?

As we work with children (our own or others), we want to teach them in ways they can understand. For example:

– Preschoolers learn through exposure to shapes, textures, colors, sounds, and above all, doing. Their play is learning.

– Children 2 through 7 need to be continuously encouraged to think of others.

– Children aged 7 through 11 are beginning to process theological concepts such as the truths that we are made in the image of God or that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

– Adolescents and teens need to be taught a biblical worldview of themselves, their family, and how to view their culture.

 Leading and teaching children requires us to know, not just what they are thinking, but how they are thinking!