When Grandparents live on the other side of the world: 10 Tips for Nurturing the Relationship

Steve and Marion Spencer chatting with grandson on his birthday.
  1. Be intentional about regular communication– Relationships take time. When it’s all you can do to keep your head above water as a mom, it’s easy to be out of sight out of mind. Choose a regular time to call when baby is at his best and it works well with time-zones and grandparents’ schedule.  (See why it doesn’t happen if it’s not planned out?)  How often you call depends on what works well for your family.
  2. Plan “playdates” with Grandparents– Kids love one on one attention. If you have more than one child, rotate which child gets to have a “playdate” with grandma that week. This article has some practical ideas for digital communication:  https://www.thebump.com/a/toddler-build-relationships-video-chat
  3. Keep a list on the fridge of what to show Grandpa when he video calls – Your child’s new dance move, a poem he learned to recite, her latest invention, his artwork… Soon you’ll be hearing “Oh, Grandpa will love that!”
  4. Make a plan that’s appropriate for your child’s developmental stage- Keep it brief, but regular for babies and toddlers.  Keep it interactive for preschoolers and school age kids.   And admit it, even if they were in the same room teens wouldn’t be super engaged in conversation with grandparents anyways. I’ve been told that changes in early adulthood.
  5. “Adopt” a local grandparent- It’s healthy for children to have cross-generational relationships.  Chances are there is a grandma near you missing the hug that only a toddler can give, because her own grandchildren are plane rides away. Look for older friends that are genuinely interested in your whole family.  Invite them to family meals and holiday celebrations.  (Don’t worry. No one will replace grandma.)
  6. Make birthday and holiday calls extra special- Ahead of time purchase and wrap a gift with the money that grandparents sent.  Give it to your child to unwrap on the video call so grandparents can share their joy.
  7. Keep regular reminders of grandparents around the house- Keep pictures on the wall of the last time you were with them.  Point the pictures out to your kids.  Have child friendly photo albums of family.  In the same way that your child points to numbers and colors have him point to and name family members.  Before you travel have grandparents record a video or audio recording of them reading books so that grandparents can tell the bedtime story.
  8. Keep the technology simple- You would be amazed at what grandmas can learn when there is a grandchild on the other side of the app.  But if most of the call is spent trying to figure out the technology, you’ll lose your preschooler’s attention.
  9. Ask grandparents to help with homework- Yep! Let Grandpa listen patiently as your little angel reads about the cat that sat on the mat, while you enjoy a few moments of rest. 
  10. Push through the pain- Admit that every time you see your child run away from the screen or see Grandma wipe a tear, it hurts.  But, it’s worth it to create memories and nurture that relationship!

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