I just finished Skyping with my toddler grandson and feel so sad. My son and his family live in Germany. Skyping is nice, but it’s such a teaser. How can I be part of my grandson’s life when he is so far away?
Grandparenting. It’s not like it used to be. Grandma and grandpa most likely don’t live next door, ready to give hugs and share Sunday suppers. When we gave our children wings, we also gave them license to fly. Now, so many of us realize that they have done just that. And worse yet, they’ve taken our grandchildren!
Take heart. You can build a close relationship with your grandson even though you have little time together. It will take extra effort but will be worth it. The grandparent bond is important in providing memories that nurture these loved ones long after we are gone.
Use these ideas to build connections:
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. Children love to do things over and over again. Choose a silly ritual, pet name or special song that belongs to the two of you—and then play it up. For example, my granddaughter, Daisy, knows that we practice yoga together. It’s not like any yoga you’d recognize. I give our poses crazy names and we end up twisted together on the floor, laughing our heads off. In between our visits, she recalls this and looks forward to doing it again. Even though she is young, she associates yoga with me and more importantly, remember the special time we share.
- Single them out. When you visit, spend time with each grandchild alone. Particularly for a child with siblings, one-on-one time counts. It may be more practical to function as a group, but the focus on just one grandchild will help him or her feel special. They too, will be focused on you, rather than a sibling or cousin. Even a quick trip to the nearby library can be festive. Bring a monogrammed book bag or bookmark and select a book that reflects the child’s interests of the moment. Stop for ice cream afterward.
- Pass it on. Have you noticed how much kids love stories, particularly stories of when they were born or stories about their own parents? At bedtime, after we read books together, I tell Daisy stories about her daddy or about her Great-Great-Aunt Daisy who used to do the same thing with me when I was small. Someday, I trust that my granddaughter will remember my stories and tell them to her own grandchildren.
- Keep in touch. Even though you are miles apart, foster regular contact. Send post cards, small packages, talk on the phone — and Skype. Yes, such video calls may leave you wanting more. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, view this as evidence of the love you feel for your grandson and be grateful for another way that you may reach him. The upside is that Skyping will help your grandson recognize you. Thank goodness for technology.
- Make it count. When you visit, make it count but don’t turn the trip into a perfection-seeking extravaganza of overscheduling. Balance! Strive for relaxed fun, and above all, be flexible! Leave behind regrets over your limited time and savor the present moment. Plan a memorable outing, but more importantly, spend time together on a craft, hobby, or game that is yours alone. Need some ideas? Just remember what you loved to do as a kid.
Grandparenting is a joy and we bring to this life stage the same intensity, focus and desire we applied to earlier developmental milestones. We know how we think it should be and how we want it to be. Yet, this journey is not ours alone. It is now our children’s turn to make choices that affect our proximity to our grandchildren. We can fight it, bemoan it or we can embrace our opportunities. Make no mistake, those opportunities are still there. We may have to look harder, adapt to new technologies, and employ advance planning, but it is still possible to be an involved grandparent who provides an invaluable source or security, enrichment and love that will last a lifetime.
Vicki is a licensed professional counselor and welcomes your questions. She can be reached at Victoria2write@aol.com