Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Long Distance Grandparenting

Keep in Touch

"The world is waiting for you." When I said this to my seven little kids, I didn't realize how quickly they'd respond.

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.

Advice:
* 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!

Oma Connections.

This post was published on About.com Guide to Grandparents March 20, 2010

10 comments:

Hannah said...

You are such an awesome Oma! Oh my, a cousin club? So wonderful.

My mother sends her grandkids something in the mail every month. (It is usually a postcard from her home in Hawaii or a small gift.) I am going to forward this post on to her. I think a "Cousin Club" would be right up her alley.

Julie said...

You are just the neatest Grandma. I'm going to try to use some of your ideas with my kids to have them keep in touch with my parents. Or maybe I'll just forward this onto my mom!

ForeverRhonda said...

That sounds absolutely wonderful. My mom only has 2 grandkids right now but we are soon to be far flung with them moving back to Florida and us staying in Oklahoma. The Cousins Club sounds like an idea worth copying!!

Michelle said...

you are brilliant. Will this post be in your archives when I'm a grandma? Could you please write a book on grandparenting? I'd buy it!

Melissa Walker said...

I love all those ideas--and I can tell you those seemingly little things mean so much to the ones far away!

Diane said...

You are my Oma hero. Put on your cape and fly around! I will copy this and put it in my files. My oldest grand is almost 5, and we go down to 7 weeks, but I know how time flies and very soon we need to be doing something similar to this.

I love your point about being positive. My mother-in-law is the best at that, and was always excited about what we did as a family and where we went. It was a big contrast to my mother. We wanted to be with my husband's family because it was no pressure.

cannwin said...

cute picture there at the end... lol

Kay Dennison said...

Awesome!!!!!!

Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

I love your blog because it's so refreshing. It's so full of love for your family, good writing, and practical ideas. Great post!

Soul-Fusion said...

These are great ideas! My mom has always been supportive of her kids living in different cities but her only two grandchildren are far away and just last night we were talking about how hard that is (especially since she lives in Utah where so many of her peers have tons of grandkids close by). I am going to send her this. But I'm wondering, do you have any recommendations in a situation where the in-law (daughter-in-law) significantly favors her own family in terms of time (trips home), phone calls and shared photos?