Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Long Distance Grandparenting ... by Russ Beck

In this fast paced, unrelentingly mobile world, we often find ourselves living in one location while loved ones are living thousands of miles away. In the case of being a grandparent this can be emotionally painful. The expectation we carry in our mind is one of Sunday dinners spent with the grandchildren laughing and playing. Although some fortunate people have this, the majority actually do not.

So, what are we to do then? We live in one place while our children have moved for work to another part of the country, taking with them our precious grandchildren. Certainly, we can attempt to move to the new location, but it is generally expensive and not a practical solution for many. There is always the problem of relocating, only to have them move again. Few, if any, of us have the financial freedom to traipse around the country following our children.

The one action we don't want to take is to do nothing. The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” is all too true. We must face the challenge and be proactive in our attempts to maintain a relationship with our grandkids and have influence in their developing lives.

Here are a few ideas to help maintain a long-distance relationship:

Learn and Use Technology
There is a great deal to learn with today’s technological advancements, presenting a challenge that's not to be feared, but rather to be embraced. Continuing to learn and stretch our capabilities at any age is beneficial. We gather skills, which improve our self-esteem. We are engaged in problem solving which has advantages in other areas of life, and we become positive examples to our grandchildren. Additionally, if we need assistance, we can usually turn to our grandchildren for help! This also improves our relationship with them. But, when using technology, don’t think one dimensionally—utilize several methods of communication.

The vast majority of people now have cell phones. Often our grandchildren will also have a cell phone of their own. Be sure to have their number and make sure they have yours. Call them when appropriate, but also learn how to send and receive a text. The youth of today communicate with each other in a variety of ways. Texting is one of the most exciting for them. It can be tricky to get the hang of it, but think of how pleased they will be when they receive a text saying, “Thinking of you. Hope you have a good day.” Most likely, a lightening fast reply of “u2.” will appear on our end.

We may feel like we're learning a new language with texting, but again, learning a new language helps keep our cognitive abilities sharp!

Once the major vogue, email has started to take a step back. However, it is important to remember that our goal is to have multiple methods of communicating with our grandchildren. So, send an occasional email. We should try not to be too lengthy, but be sure to convey love and concern for them, as well as express what activities we're doing. This is a chance to be a little more in depth than a text message, and allows for the development of a deeper relationship.

Computer Novelties
Send an occasional e-card from one of the many web sites available. There are a number of different kinds to choose from, and some cost money, while others are free. We also need to consider what types of things our grandchildren like so we can make it a goal to surprise them with a card that will appeal to them personally.

Sending photos by email is an excellent way of not only being more personal, but of giving them a digital file they can save and reopen frequently. Anyone unskilled in this area can check with a local senior center for classes or check with church members who may be willing to help. Again, we want to try to have the photo depict us involved in an activity. This gives the grandkids more info about our lives and our personalities. Remember, we are building relationships.

Look for fun, interactive web sites which allow sharing something together. With our granddaughter, we found a cute web site that allowed the user to build a little squid. She was able to decide the size and color, as well as name it. Once released into the digital ocean, it would have various experiences, some funny and some dangerous. Our granddaughter would call us and ask us to look up her squid on the computer and tell her what it was doing. It was great fun for all.

Web Cam
This amazing advancement allows real time face-to-face contact. We look directly into the eyes of our grandchildren and talk with them the same, as if they were sitting across from us. It is remarkably simple and affordable.

Started 7 years ago, this is now the leading Internet global communications company. Their program and system offers calling as well as video conferencing through the computer. It offers a great opportunity to maintain contact with the grandkids and is pocketbook friendly... you can do it for free!

Snail Mail
This is more of an old school type of approach, but it is still significant. Everyone still loves to go to the mailbox and get a letter or card. There is still something precious about written material. Perhaps it is the personal touch or the knowledge that it takes more time than a text or email and thereby signifies love. Don’t neglect the power or impact of this mode of communication.

All good relationships require effort. Today we have the advantage of utilizing multiple forms of communication to keep us in touch with our grandchildren who live far from us. The trick is to use several of the different means of contact and not just one. We may not be able to have them over for Sunday dinner, but we can be a part of their lives and in return, they can still be an important part of ours.

Until next time …

~ Russ

------© Russ Beck, 2010------

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1 comment:

  1. Great advice! Right after reading it, I called and left a message for my grandson to chat with me online. Thanks for a good reminder.