Long Distance Grandparenting

I never intended to be one of those children who moved away from family. I saw my life much differently when I was newly married and planning out my future. After 8 years of marriage, my husband and I turned our parents into the one thing none of them desired to be…long distant grandparents.

I found both sets of grandparents as ill-prepared to deal with it as I was. I faced the realization early on that they were not going to read a book telling them how to be a grandparent much less how to be a long distant grandparent. Let’s face it, their generation believes grand-parenting is a piece of cake. You surely don’t need a book on the matter.

The years have taught be otherwise. They needed direction just as much as I did. It is not an easy task trying to keep the two sides connected to each other. My middle son found that out when he received a book at age 11 that was intended for a reader still in the “See Spot run” stage.

My mother-in-law used to send stickers to my daughter along with an blank paged book to put them in. She still has the book and now and then I see her looking through it. I have spent years learning from the experts which turned out to be my own children. What they want is simply a connection. They want a note in the mail that says “hello”. They want to hear about the raccoon getting into grandpa’s garden and remember along with them, the times we shared together before we moved. They want love in the form of a note, a phone call, and yes an email. They want to know that you don’t still think they are the age they were when they moved. They want you to acknowledge they are growing up. What they don’t want is a million questions on what they want to be when they grow up or if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. They want to play board games with them when they visit, just hang out, and yes, they still want to hear the stories grandparents have to tell.

The biggest lesson I have learned from my children is that a stamp on a envelope goes a long way in staying connected and a phone call makes them feel important. When I was a child, I used to hear that the simple things in life are the most important. That certainly is true when it comes to long distant grand-parenting.

If you want to stay connected as a grandparent, you have to make the effort. You have to take the initiative. That means getting creative. Get some paper and envelopes and plan to do a lot of writing. Don’t always expect them to write back and don’t get discouraged if they don’t. Just keep writing. Get an email address and have the parents set one up for the grandchild. Email them lots of pictures. Call to talk to them only. Send them a craft to do for you and have them send it back so you can display it proudly to your friends. If you travel a lot as a grandparent, find something you can send them to collect from places you visit. It can be something as simple as a pencil collection.

Staying connected can be as unique as you are. Staying connected doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Staying connected doesn’t have to take a lot of time and effort. It just takes a lot of love.