With so many people moving away from the towns they grew up in, long distance grandparenting is increasingly common. It can be a challenge but we've put together some top tips to stay close when you live far away.
1) The big things
Distance doesn’t mean Grandparents can’t be involved in the big things. Whether it’s their first steps, starting school, or moving to a new home, life is full of big events for little people. With so many ways to communicate, it’s possible to be part of big events with a skype or a phone call, a card or letter.
2) Don't forget the little things
Distance often means you might get together rarely and perhaps only for the big events like birthdays and Christmas. It can be easy to make meet ups just about celebrations and grand days out. This is great and really important but so too are the little things that happen every day. Living so far away, you can’t be there every day, but getting involved in the mundane things helps to create a connection and a strong understanding of each others day to day lives. If you can, when you visit, get involved in nursery and school drop offs, playgroups and classes, trips to the supermarket, hanging out the washing and walking the dog.
3) Sharing experiences
This is a great way to support grandchildren through big events, help them to relate to you and see life from a different perspective. So, why not show them some photos of you as a baby; maybe you had a favourite teddy as a child. Share the not so good as well - the things that worried you or that made your scared. On their first day at school you might share your memories of school, your favourite school dinner and the name of your first friend.
4) The post
There’s nothing better for a little one than to arrive home and find an interesting parcel
addressed to them. Whether it’s a letter or a little gift it brings joy and excitement, creates memories and strengthens a bond. A letter remembering what you did during your last visit plus some detail of your plans for the next helps to build the anticipation before a visit, even for very young toddlers, especially if you include photographs.
It’s not for everyone, but once both children and grandparents are used to it, skype can provide really special moments. The possibilities are endless – from brief catch ups and being part of day to day home life to sharing in celebrations and playing games. Try a game of hide and seek. As long as there are two people at each end, you can have a pretty good game. With one person ‘hiding’ and the other carrying the IPAD so the others can ‘seek’. This game also helps to keep children familiar with and comfortable in their grandparents home.
Emails and texts can offer a similar contact to letters, a great way to share the mundane or to maintain connections. It’s also a chance to be a bit silly. Why not try exchanging emoji messages. Completely meaningless and silly but can bring great pleasure to little people.
7) Remember me
Photographs are a great way to remind grandchildren how special you are and also how special they are to you. Why not make a family tree with photos of the whole family. Or try drawing a picture together of your favourite things and display it. This is a daily reminder of their grandparents plus a wonderful tool for them to get to know their grandparents own interests a little better.
8) Create traditions and routines
Traditions and routines make memories that will stay with children forever. Whether it’s a special place you visit, an activity or game, or a favourite meal, this creates special moments and lasting memories.
9) Share your passions
However you do it, share your own passions with your grandchildren and show an interest in theirs. Grandchildren will learn so much by learning from you and seeing your enthusiasm for something that you enjoy. Similarly, your grandchildren will feel important if you listen and take an interest in what they enjoy.
10) Something special
It’s not important to have a house full of toys when grandchildren come to stay but having something special that the children love and look forward to strengthens the connection with their grandparents home and makes them feel welcome. It might be a special duvet cover they use or a special book to read at bedtime.