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Staying Close to Grandchildren who Live Far Away

For so long, you’ve looked forward to having grandchildren. Now you have them, but they live far away. That wasn’t what you had hoped for. Maybe you had imagined that your relationship with your grandchildren would be like yours was with your grandparents—easy visiting back and forth many times a month.

You can drive yourself crazy wishing that things were different. Instead, focus on the many things you can do to have a close, meaningful relationship with your grandchildren.

►        First, communicate well with your children
Things tend to work out best when grandparents play a supportive role, not a critical one. Make sure that when you spend time with your grandchildren, it’s easy on your own kids. You experience is invaluable, so be there to listen and offer advice when your children or grandchildren need it. But try not to offer much advice at all unless they ask you for it.

When there’s no tension due to unsolicited criticism, your own children are likely to be happy to arrange time for you to spend with their children.

►        Take the initiative
The more you can actually visit with your grandchildren, the better. Don’t wait for your own children to initiate visits. For them, time flies by, taken up with responsibilities of work and child-rearing. They may not be counting the days since you last got together.

Don’t be shy about picking up the phone to set up your next visit. Be as flexible as you can. This is easier if you’re retired, of course, but even if you’re working full-time, try to meet in the middle in terms of scheduling.

►        Use technology
Since you’re reading this on the Internet, you’re no stranger to the computer. E-mail and digital photos probably mean more to your grandchildren, especially if they’re fairly young, than phone calls. You’ve probably had the experience of calling your four-year-old grandson and hearing him tell his mother, “I don’t want to talk on the telephone.”

Kids live in the moment, and they have no idea how hurtful it can be if they’re not in the mood to get on the phone with you. To them, whatever they’re caught up in at that moment is absorbing all of their attention.

►        Be creative
Kids love to get mail, so this can be a nice creative outlet for you. Send pictures of yourself to them. Show them pictures of your house in heavy snow, your dog, your friends, your vacations. They’ll like seeing what your life is like when they’re not there.

You may also want to get them a subscription to a children’s magazine. This can be a monthly reminder of your love for them.

Distance adds a new dimension
Even though you might prefer things to be different, the positive side is that having your grandchildren far away creates new opportunity. When grandparents and grandchildren live in the same city or town, they rarely send e-mails and letters and digital pictures. There can actually be more depth to the relationship when you have to put such an effort into it.

And when you do have visits, they’re generally much longer than they would normally be if your grandchildren lived just across town. The quality of your time can be extremely meaningful in these visits. And don’t forget to take lots of pictures. You can send them to your grandchild as a reminder of how much fun you have when you do get together.

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