We live in a time of virtual, almost everything, including relationships. Things have changed, so much, from those far away days when you could just go visit your grandchildren and experience that wonderful relationship that happens, between grandparents and grandchildren. Long-distance grandparents face a huge challenge with grandparenting in this virtual world. One main challenge is that with young grandchildren, you need to come up with a strategy to interact with them. This interaction has to be fun and engaging for the grandchildren, or they will simply get bored, frustrated, or completely tune you out.
As grandparents the responsibility is ours to build relationships with our grandchildren. If it doesn’t happen, it’s on us. Relationships need to begin when our grandchildren are young, so that we can build that relationship stronger as they get older. We need to find ways to help that relationship grow as they grow.
A 2019 AARP national survey concluded that over half the grandparents at that time were 200 or more miles away from at least one grandchild. They also concluded that grandparents are looking for ways to stay connected with their grandchildren.
Several years ago, I pondered this long-distance grandparenting dilemma. How could I build a good strong relationship with my grandchildren who lived over two thousand miles away? It’s not like I could call them, text them, or go see them on a regular basis. They were, and are still very young. So, how do you build a relationship with very young people when you are so far away?
It took me a while, but I came up with a solution that worked for me and my grandchildren. The solution involved me putting myself to the task of creating a way to play with them, online. Not video games, but grandma games. I spent a lot of time developing games, these games turned into stories, which evolved into full blown activities. I integrated scavenger hunts, little kid mysteries, and even a grandma imaginary friend into these activities.
Just like all grandchildren are individual, so are grandparents. We have to find what works for us individually, and what will work for our grandchildren. As they grow, we have to grow too. With very small grandchildren through toddlerdom, we can watch them, read them stories, cheer them on as they learn new things, all on video chat. This type of interaction is great for that age children, but when they begin to talk, reason, and move beyond the toddler situation, what then? Watching them, or reading them a story just isn’t enough anymore. Play! We have to learn to play. Grandparents in essence need to tap into their inner child. Think back on the games you used to play when you were a kid. Which were your favorites? Use that. Kids love to play, they love to learn new games, especially the ones where you have to use your imagination. Did you play cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, tea party, or dress up? Teach them how, then play together over video chat.
Always remember to play to your strengths! Do what you do well, and then do it some more. Your grandchildren will love it, and your relationship will grow by leaps and bounds.
For some fun and games that I’ve created visit – https://www.julieworthington.com/portfolio/long-distance-grandparenting/
Patty David, B. N.-K. (2019, April 1). AARP Grandparents Study. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/life/info-2019/aarp-grandparenting-study.html.