Grandparenting From a Distance
Sadly, the days when three generations of a family all lived within a few miles of each other seem to be long gone. Although it still exists, people moving for work and other reasons has meant that many Grandparents face playing an absent role in their lives of their grandchildren. As being a grandparent is oft described as even more fulfilling and rewarding that being a parent, this is a legitimate worry for many elderly people as their families are far away. While the simple solution may be to move closer, this is unrealistic for many modern families, so grandparents are looking for ways to interact with their grandchild as much as possible despite miles separating them.
The general fear among grandparents seems to be “out of sight, out of mind”. Although this may not be such a problem as some grandparents fear, there is no doubt that not having a day-to-day role in the life of your grandchild can affect your relationship. The key is to keep close by other means than physical proximity.
As soon as your grandchild is able, establish a regular way of communicating with them. This is a communication that should be solely reserved for the two of you, a modern-day communications replica of spending one-on-one time together. Many children, particularly at a young age, struggle to use the telephone for fear of running out of things to say. Instead, strike up a written communication by either mail or email, which allows the child to think and consider their response in their own time. By alleviating the pressure of a required immediate response, many children will become more responsive.
Sending letters or emails twice a week is generally considered to be acceptable. Keep things light, chatty, full of questions and observations which they child will find entertaining. With these letters, you are trying to stimulate through words the kind of pleasure censors that would usually be stimulated through playing together. Including puzzles or family quizzes is popular. Always try to remember what your grandchild last put in a letter and ask them about it, no matter how mundane – have they made up with their friend now? Has that cut on their knee healed? This creates a feeling of you being there with them and involved in their lives.
This communication can be greatly effective, but spending time with them in a physical sense is also important. Speak to the parents of your grandchild and see how best to arrange a calendar year to get the maximum opportunity to spend time with the child. Perhaps offer to have the child stay with you while the parents take a vacation, or plan your own holidays within easy reach of the home of your grandchild. There are even specifically designed Grandparent-Grandchildren summer camps, where days of unrivalled time can be spent together in a comfortable setting that is conducive to all.
You can maintain a constant, caring presence in the life of your grandchild even if you can’t be there physically. Put yourself in the mindset of what you would do if you were physically together; maybe you’d play games, so replicate this in letter format. Or if you knew their favorite candy you’d buy it for them, so do this too. Regular visits are important, but without the kind of weekly conversation that a closer geographical location would provide, this can sometimes be awkward. By being a constant presence in the day-to-day life of your child, you can guarantee that even though you may be out of sight, you are never out of mind.