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Being a Long Distance Grandparent

Grandparents are very important to their families. Even if you live miles away, you can be a source of comfort and stability to your grandchildren. Here are a few ways to spice up your relationship with grandchildren who live at a distance:

  1. Send postcards and letters. Young children especially love colorful picture postcards. When you write letters, send pictures of yourself, your pets, scenes from a trip, or pictures of the child from a previous visit. You can also sprinkle your correspondence with trivia questions and riddles.
  2. Send audio or video cassette tapes. The children can play them over and over again and a taped "letter" is easier for a young child to understand than a written one. Young children can reply with their own tape. Ask the parents to interview the child on tape. The child might also play a piece recently mastered on a musical instrument.
  3. Use phone calls for special occasions, if you need to watch your budget. Sometimes events that are occasional, rather than regular, take on special significance.
  4. Invite one grandchild to visit at a time. It prevents sibling rivalry and will help assure a relaxed time for both of you. Limit the first visit to no more than a week, in case of homesickness. Before the visit, make some plans with the child, by letter or phone. Plan something special to do early in the visit: a trip to a museum, an amusement park, or a fishing spot. Teach a grandchild how to embroider, use tools, make a favorite recipe, or plant a garden. If possible, arrange time for play with other children.
  5. Take a trip together. Go to a lake, a state park, historic places, or stay at a motel with a swimming pool. Be guided by the child's age and changing interests. To be important to your grandchild, you don't need everyday contact. You can maintain emotional contact from a distance. And when you're together, they thrive on the undivided attention you can give, the unconditional love that grandparents are so good at providing, and the opportunity to learn new things about this interesting world.

Reviewer: Dan Lago, Ph.D., Penn State Extension Aging Specialist, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences