Grandparents who live far from their grandchildren face a particularly difficult challenge when it comes to building and maintaining relationships. How can grandparents who see their grandchildren few and far between form a close bond?
Quality Over Quantity in Bonding with Grandchildren
The good news for long-distance grandparents is that psychological research indicates that, similar to the bond between parent and child, attachment is not about the amount of time spent with grandchildren. It is very possible for grandparents and grandchildren to form strong bonds with grandchildren, even with short periods of physical contact.
Here are some fun ways to forge a bond with grandchildren who live far away.
1. Video chat
Although technology certainly has its limits and is no replacement for personal time, video chats can be very helpful in establishing and maintaining regular contact with grandchildren. If schedules or time changes present a challenge, schedule a time with their parents that you know will work and try to make that time a weekly scheduled event. Keep a running list of topics to discuss and questions to ask them about their lives throughout the week to keep the conversation moving.
2. Pass down heirloom items
Giving your grandchild an age-appropriate family heirloom is another great way to strengthen the grandparent-grandchild bond. Share the story behind the object and let the heirloom serve as a physical reminder of your love.
3. Take a trip with each grandchild
Research shows that bonds with grandchildren are best developed one on one, and a trip with your grandchild is a great way to spend that individual time. If you live far away from your grandchild, offer to meet them in their city and then travel together to another destination. Or, maybe you have retired in a popular tourist destination and your grandchild would like to come visit you for some one-on-one time. Either way, escaping the routine together and exploring a new place will build a bond and create memories that can last a lifetime.
4. Have your own traditions with each grandchild
Something as simple as a secret handshake or a favorite song can go a long way in developing bonds with grandchildren, especially when they are young. Create (or pass on!) fun family traditions that will make your grandchild feel special, loved, and included in family traditions.
5. Mail family food and recipes
This is a great idea especially if your grandchildren live far from all their family. Include them in fun family recipes by mailing them your family’s sugar cookie recipe (bonus points if you include the cookies!). This lets them know a little about their family history and may help them feel more connected to extended family.
6. Share family stories
Every family has those stories told at holiday gatherings or family reunions. Grandchildren who live far away may not have heard these treasured memories, and even if they have, young children love repetition! Sharing your stories can also help your grandchild feel comfortable telling you their stories, only strengthening your bond.
7. Share hobbies
One of the fun things about being a grandparent is rediscovering childhood joy. Maybe you used to love camping or fishing, but life just got busy. Find those things that you used to love, or maybe still do love, and include your grandchild. You may find that you share common interests and hobbies.
When it comes to bonding with grandchildren, the benefits extend beyond family boundaries. Research has shown that adults who had a strong relationship with their grandparents exhibit greater compassion for aging in themselves and others.
How do you bond with your grandchildren? Share your ideas with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!