We're preparing for a visit to see our eight-year-old twin grandsons soon. It's tough living more than 2,000 miles away and I really wish the Star Trek transporter was a reality. Since the birth of the boys, our priority has been to build a strong relationship with them even if we couldn't be physically present on a regular basis. Technology has made it a whole lot easier, but that's not the only means to building close ties with those boys who are growing up way too fast.
Since today's families tend to be scattered, here are some things I've learned along the way as a long distance grandparent.
1. Consistent Contact - You can do this in a number of ways and the variety is enjoyable. Phone calls, Skype or Face Time, cards, email. Use them all. What a great gift to video call grandkids! We can do that for free, and what fun to see their school work, new shoes, or anything else that's happening. We've set aside Sunday afternoons for many years to connect with family.
2. Memory Books - Keep those memories of being together fresh by assembling little photo albums. It's so easy to print out photos of visits in any size and put together a story of your last visit. It's a fun gift to send by mail as a reminder of your good time, along with a note talking about the next visit. I've done them as mini scrapbooks, photo books through Shutterfly, or I've created virtual albums using Smilebox. This is a free program you can download to your computer. Our grandsons are hooked on the collection Smileboxes I've created since they were born. They love all the stories we recount as we view each album--several times.
3. Special Activities - There are certain activities we just have to do when we visit. The boys can hardly wait to bake bread with me or go treasure hunting (geocaching) with Grandpa. A visit to Dunkin' Donuts after treasure hunting is also expected. We have exciting games of hide-and-seek in a local park, play Go Fish, and read piles of books. We don't do exotic or expensive outings, but we sure have a bunch of fun. We're building special traditions and many fond memories of our adventures whether inside or outdoors. The ordinary is special if you're doing the activity together.
4. Presents - Of course gifts are a part of grandparenting. Birthdays and Christmas go without saying, but little gifts throughout the year help stay in touch. Gifts don't have to be expensive, and books are favorites of mine to send. Rewards for milestones like potty training, or a good report card, or a "just because" gift keep you involved in their lives.
Everyone's style is different, but don't let distance keep you from a close relationship with your grandchildren. Learn the technology, work at staying in touch, and building great memories. It's an investment with big returns.