Your parents expected this moment with impatience: the first grandchild. Then came the second and the third. Your parents were so proud.
They’re in their sixties, fit, curious, dynamic and usually computer savvy.
They’ve got all their heart desires except one thing: their grandchildren at their side because you moved abroad.
While this situation has some advantages – they’re not always taken for granted for babysitting or for keeping an open kitchen 24/7 – you wonder: is it possible to really build strong relationships with the grandchildren thousands of miles apart?
I argue that it IS possible.
Not easy. Filled with hard work. But finally rewarding. For both sides.
Scarcity makes shared moments even more precious. Time spent together needs to be quality time. Giving full attention, attending to evolving needs, keeping regular interaction is demanding.
But as Napoleon Hill famously said “In every adversity, there is the seed of an equivalent advantage”.
Here are 12 tips to help your parents create a special bond with their grandchild.
How to use this?
Use the email button at the left to send it directly to the grandparents 🙂
Activities nurturing identity
1. Make a photo album with your grandchild’s most precious moments
First tooth, first step, religious ceremony, first day at school, graduation, drama and musical performances, sports achievements, family gatherings.
Hand it in to your grandchild when he/she turns 18.
Collect during all the years the pictures and even videos of special moments. As grandparents, you’re the custodians of the family history. By patiently and minutiously gathering those pieces of life, you not only will help to lay a mirror to your grandchild. You’ll help build and tell their own story.
2. Write your memoir
retracing significant events of your life: the adventures or hardship of your own parents and grandparents, your childhood during the war or shortly thereafter, your school souvenirs, your work, the birth of your children (their parents!), the major changes you’ve witnessed. Yes, your children will tell their own version of the story too but it’ll be interesting to compare both recollections later on. And you’ll leave something written behind.
Note: if you don’t like the written word, make a podcast: record yourself. You can easily download an application for voice recording on your tablet or your computer.
3. Record stories for bedtime
And ask your children to play them every evening. This will free up some time for the parents, make your voice familiar to your grandchildren and develop their vocabulary in (one of) their mother tongue!
4. Make a genealogical tree together
Explain the process to your grandchildren and share with them your discoveries. If they still live in the region of your ancestors, send them to check birth registers and church records. What an exciting police investigation!
Activities for instantaneous sharing
5. Plan a regular phone call
Make the grandchildren (not their parents!) responsible for it. This is a tough one because you’re competing with friends, TV or computer games, family outings and possibly jetlag differences! So choose the timing with care. And make sure to “be“ on the other side of the line. If you forget the appointment, you break the rule and it’ll be more difficult to keep up.
6. Play Skype games online
Make it a weekly habit. For example, every Monday at 5 pm. For 30 minutes or an hour. You can teach your grandchildren how to play chess or battleship. A fond memory that your grandchild will remember forever.
7. Plan a recipe to do together via Skype
Great to do with grandchildren above 8 years old. You install your laptop or your tablet in the kitchen. You prepare the ingredients and ask your grandchild to do the same. You go on by performing the recipe, showing first. When the dish or the cake is ready, enjoy together!
8. Tell them to look at the moon every evening at a well-defined hour
Make sure you watch at the same time. Your thoughts will cross 🙂
Note: this only works when you’re both in similar time zones!
Activities with challenges
9. Send an email or a letter with a riddle, a puzzle, some crosswords…
a chore to perform to help mum and dad, a video to record and to send back. Once your grandchild successfully completes the challenge, give him the next one. Make it exciting, entertaining, informative.
10. Start to write a story
and ask your grand-child to continue it, sending back either a chapter or a few sentences depending on their age. Continue to go back and forth. How long will it last?
11. Back to the past…
Make a list of all the things you didn’t have at the age of your grand-child and ask them to live one week without using all those devices. I know, they won’t find it funny. But it’s a challenge, right? Discuss the experience. Was it even possible? What did they discover? What did they miss most? I already have a little idea 🙂
12. Make them your accountability buddy
You have a challenge you want to accomplish. Whether it’s to run the marathon or to meditate 15 minutes a day, enrol them for help. Ask them to check on you if you fail to report. They’ll learn from early the power of working together.
Ideally you can return the favor for one of their goals.
All this is fine, you may say. But hugs through Skype don’t feel the same.
And I agree.
So why not extending the love by “adopting” local grandchildren, becoming a surrogate grandparent?
Ultimately, we’re all interconnected.
And who knows? Your grandchildren might get the affection of elderly people in their neighborhood. Not to replace you but to get some more human connection.
Now, you’ve got the ideas. Go and implement one. Today. If you want to harvest in a few years time, you’d better get going 🙂