Long-Distance Grandparents: Keeping in Touch
With the development of faster, safer and cheaper modes of transportation, the younger American generations are moving further and further away from home. While according to a Washington University study, the majority of adults over the age of 25 live within 30 miles of where they grew up; a growing minority of young adult (specifically those who move away for college) are settling down further away from their hometowns. The study postulates that many out-of-state college students end up partnering with people who don’t share a hometown, thus the couple will often live close to one set of parents, but not the other.
My own family followed this study’s findings exactly. I moved over 700 miles to attend a small liberal arts college and met my future husband on campus. He lived in town, as did the majority of his family and when we got married we put down roots in the same town. A year into the marriage, I became pregnant and my mother’s greatest fear (after my and the babies health) was that her grandchildren would be afraid of her due to her infrequent visits. Even just a decade ago, those fears where well founded. Snapchat, Instagram and iMessage wasn’t even a possibility and our whole family was just introduced to text messaging with grainy small photos. Thankfully my daughter has always been a warm and friendly baby and gave her Nonie many snuggles and slobbery kisses as a baby.
Now that Charlie is a preschooler she is taking on a bigger part of keeping in touch with her grandparents than ever before. She helped me come up with a list of 7 things she loves to do with her long-distance Nonie and Papaw.
1. Write Letters.
It’s a classic for a reason. She has been sending little scribbles and drawings to her grandparents. Sometimes I have to translate her letters, but she gets very excited to create stories and pieces of artwork for them. My grandparents reply in turn with little comics or colorful letters that she carries around and looks at often. Now that she is starting to recognize letters and short sight words she loves reading the letters she receives aloud.
2. Video Chats.
Either through Skype or FaceTime, my parents have virtually been in our home for every Christmas morning and important event in our lives. The advancement of technology has grow exponentially in the past few years and now we can talk face to face just as easily as we can with friends and family in town.
3. Care Packages.
Most grandmothers love to spoil their grandchildren with little trinkets and treats during their visits, but because my mother’s visits are few and far between she often sends care packages with surprises in the mail. The packages can range from overly elaborate holiday themed boxes wrapped in matching postal tape, to just a quick plain box with a small “just thinking of you” item like sticker book or dollar store toy. No matter the contents, you can bet that Charlie will tell strangers on the street all about the surprise she got in the mail from her Nonie.
4. Christmas in July
The holiday season is hardest on the relationship. All the TV specials about spending time with family and carols about being home for Christmas can really tear up a Nonie’s heart! To help alleviate that pain we celebrate ALL the holidays within a single summer vacation. We have multiple family dinners, reminisce about our childhood holidays and exchange small gifts
5. Read-Aloud Books
Thanks to ingenious inventors at Hallmark, there are now dozens of books that include recording devices so that a grandparents can read a bedtime story to their grandchild. Some books are even so elaborate to include stuffed toys that react to certain phrases.
6. Text Messages
A quickly snapped photograph of Charlie zooming down a slide or attending her first preschool class lets my parents feel like they are part of our day-to-day life. This was especially important when Charlie was young, for as any parent knows, a baby grows up and changes so quickly.
When designing Charlie’s nursery we included a whole wall full of framed photos of family. As we played in her room we would point out the photos and tell her their name. Soon it was a game we played all the time. We also made sure to send our parents physical photos of Charlie, so that their only connection wouldn’t be through a video screen. Charlie’s collection has even grown into a small photo album that she keeps in a busy bag for when she’s waiting in an office or at church.