Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Long Distance Grandparenting
College and career opportunities took them to far-flung places. We now have twenty grandkids spread across the country in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Denver, Idaho Falls, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City.
I feel blessed that our kids and grandkids get to live in beautiful towns, visit historic places and meet great people. While I miss having them close enough to visit regularly, I try not to dwell on it.
Our oldest grandchild is 13 and our youngest grand baby is 6 months. To help them get acquainted I created The Cousins Club. The kids all have membership cards, I wrote a club song that includes everybody's name and we have a quarterly newsletter.
Each newsletter has a front page article about what each family is doing that season (vacations, sports, lessons, awards, etc.) Another article tells a story from our family history about something funny that happened when our kids were little (the time the boys tried to make a swimming pool in the bathroom, the time the dog got run over, etc.) The grandkids love stories about their parents antics.
I include a family recipe that's easy to make for a family activity, plus a picture and article about Oma and Opa (us) and how much we love them.
Inside are some activity pages. Matching games with one list of grandkids and another list of interests help them find out about each other. I've gone online and created crossword puzzles and wordsearches, using their names and interests as the answers. I call and interview each kid to find out what they're excited about at the moment.
Knock-knock jokes, an idea for a craft or game, and a page of family photos for coloring. I print the newsletters in black and white so it's cheap enough to send each child their own copy. I always include some lollipops in the package.
Our Christmas and birthday gifts are always books. I have little round stickers with a photo of Oma and Opa reading a story, with the words "For your collection." That way the kids remember what we look like!
As president of The Cousins Club, I send a fun email to everybody announcing birthdays, anniversaries, etc. I forward articles or pictures of things they're interested in that I find in the newspaper or online, and email questions or contests that they have to respond to.
We call every week and try to talk to each grandkid. Even if they just tell us they lost a tooth, or they're watching Dora, it makes us feel connected.
I've written stories, made care packages, had an on-line Halloween parade, sent balloons with messages inside and put together craft supplies with a book of ideas for what to make. CD mixes, coded messages, and cards cut up into puzzles are all easy to mail.
* Look outward. Whenever I feel homesick for grandkids, I get busy with an Oma project—anything that would be a fun little token of my love.
* Take a positive approach. We don't demand visits, or get our feelings hurt when they take a vacation to somewhere else. It builds our relationships when we support the families with encouraging words.
* Use technology. I read books into a digital recorder and send it along with the book. I take tons of pictures to email, just to keep our faces in their minds.
* Pray. I tell my grandkids that we pray for each of them every single night.
* Have fun!
This post was published on About.com Guide to Grandparents March 20, 2010