Now, more than ever before, young adults are moving away from their hometowns, seeking opportunities to further their education, careers, and relationships, among other things. While these moves are often intended to be part of a short-term plan, it’s not uncommon for them to turn into a permanent move. You may send your child to an out-of-state college, where they go on to accept a job offer or fall in love, far away from “home”. Slowly, but surely, they begin to settle into a new town and start planting roots miles and miles away from where they were raised. It’s a bittersweet experience to see them flourish into the person you hoped and prayed they’d become… all from a distance.
Different zip codes, different time zones, and sometimes even different continents can all present challenges when trying to stay involved and in touch with your children. To take it a step further, when your babies have babies, you will have to learn to navigate the new role of a long-distance grandparent. For many, this is the first generation to experience such a role; however, it is not uncommon. According to a 2019 survey conducted by AARP, more than 50% of grandparents have at least one grandchild who lives more than 200 miles away.
If you fall into this growing statistic, we have several tools to help you stay engaged in the lives of your grandchildren, from afar. Though you may not be there, in person, to witness their first steps or attend their ball games, dance recitals, and school plays, you can still be an invaluable part of their lives.
The best way to stay connected with a faraway grandchild is to call them. Consider having a scheduled time to build anticipation and to ensure availability. For some, this may mean daily phone calls, while others may find that a weekly call is best. Either way, it is important to be intentional about setting aside time to converse with one another and build a relationship.
For younger children, you may find that a video call is more beneficial. Apps, such as FaceTime or Zoom, allow you to not only hear that familiar voice, but to put a face with it, as well. Even babies can engage with someone on the other end of the call. Though they may not be able to contribute a great deal to the conversation, they can feel the comfort and consistency of your voice, especially when established at a young age.
Photos and Videos
Modern technology allows us to easily share videos and pictures with the click of a button. This is a quick and efficient way to communicate the little happenings throughout the day. Afterall, it’s the little moments that make the biggest impact when grandparenting from afar. Being a part of these, and being able to share them with one another, can make you feel less distant. While Grandma may not be there to see the tall block tower her grandchild made, a picture can capture the moment!
As a grandparent, if you come across something that makes you think of your grandchild, you can send it to them with a message letting them know you are thinking of them. These small gestures help to keep you connected and form a bond, despite the miles that keep you apart.
Whether it’s handwritten letters, small gifts, or care packages, there’s nothing quite like receiving mail from your grandparent. To make it even sweeter, consider sending homemade snacks or baked goods, a book to read together, seeds to grow your favorite flowers, or a special recipe card with nonperishable ingredients to prepare a favorite treat. This is a great way to share your favorite activities together, despite living miles away.
Take every opportunity you can to spend time with one another, in person. Try to visit your children and grandchildren at least once a year. Be intentional with your time and make the most of your visits. Plan special outings, play games, read books, watch movies, snuggle, tell stories, bake, laugh, and make memories to last a lifetime. In return, invite them to come visit you, when possible! The old saying “quality over quantity” is especially true in this scenario. While your time together may be limited, how it is spent is very important.
If your budget and abilities allow it, take trips together! Find a common meeting ground (ideally one that splits the distance for both parties) and plan to spend time together enjoying one another’s company. Vacations are a wonderful opportunity to break away from the day-to-day responsibilities and focus your attention on spending quality time together.