How Long-Distance Grandparents Can Stay Close
When your grandchildren live far away, it can feel challenging to build a close relationship with them. It is possible though and well worth the effort! Building a close long-distance relationship with grandchildren begins with believing it is doable and then consistently doing the things that will create an amazing bond. Here’s how long-distance grandparents can stay close.
All relationships are built with the same things: frequent communication, spending time together, sharing traditions, and celebrating special events. Long-distance relationships are no different. You just have to begin thinking about it with the goal in mind: Stay close to your grandchildren.
While there can certainly be a lot of pleasure in living near your grandchildren, it’s not a guarantee that you will be close. And living far apart, does not mean you cannot be close. No matter the distance, there are many things you can do to have an amazing relationship with your grandchildren!
Most of these ideas also work with your nearby grandkids. This list is not by any means all-inclusive at all! I’m sure most of you in this situation have ideas that you are already doing, and I’d love to hear about them too in the comments below.
The most important thing you can do when building a relationship with children is be consistent. Long distance this will mean regular Facetime chats, phone calls, and some visits. Plan these with the parents. Most parents want their children to be close to their grandparents and will help you find times to connect.
There will be times when you call, or Facetime and your grandchild will not be in the mood to talk. Have a visit with your son or daughter and don’t worry about it too much. The consistency is the important thing. Even if you think they don’t care that much, they are still taking in that you are there. You are a presence in their life!
Children thrive on knowing something is going to happen on a regular basis. Your consistency will help build a close bond because looking forward to your calls will be part of them feeling close to you. If you just pop in, of course that’s nice too, but setting up a regular time every week doubles the impact.
Be a Friend to Your Grandchild
I was surprised recently to hear that my oldest grandchild considered me to be a ‘best friend.” I knew that she loved me, and I love her but hearing her think of me as a friend made me realize that my time with her was important, not just for the fun, but for the fact, she felt she had someone she could count on.
Grandparents definitely have a different role than parents. My first advice in being an awesome grandparent is to always respect the parents and their rules. So, being a friend to a grandchild doesn’t mean being someone who does things with them that their parents wouldn’t approve of.
It does mean being a good listener, cheering them on, doing fun things with them, and being a person they can count on. While you may not have as much time with your grandchildren when you are long distance, you can use the time to be friend as well as a grandparent.
And when you are away, you can call or write to stay in touch.
When you are with them, you meet them at their level.
My older granddaughter has parents that like to take her to fun, active places. But she and I both like to do quiet things too, like both of us getting books and reading. She enjoys an evening at a musical or going to a nice place to eat. I know that she also, while being with me, likes to have her alone time, where she can play a game on my phone or read her book in peace. I respect that about her and since I’m much like that, it’s easy for me to accommodate that.
She seems to really appreciate that I, 100% let her be her when she’s with me.
My middle granddaughter wants to talk and play the whole time! It’s very important for her to be able to tell me everything that is going on in her life and show me her things. She also wants me to join her in play, whether it’s a game or playing with little dolls. I make sure that I always set aside time to do both of these things with her.
If I suggested to her that we read books? She’d say, “Boring!” For her, a trip to the grocery store, a craft store, or the park is always met with excitement.
Being a friend, means spending time doing things together, doing things they like. Since I’m a grown up and for the most part get to do what I like, I can put aside my preferences to join them in theirs when I’m with them.
Even when it’s part of a visit, be sure and make time to join them in their kind of fun. I love my own daughter and of course, want to catch up with her but I always let the girls know that I have time for them too.
Put the Relationship in Your Budget
Having a relationship with your long-distance grandkids means one way or another, finding a way to spend time with them. If you have to travel, that means setting aside the money to make the trip and perhaps even getting a hotel room or Airbnb, if the family house doesn’t have room for you to stay.
And staying in a hotel isn’t always bad! You have a place to go back to and relax and the grandkids can visit you there too. Most children enjoy things a hotel can provide such as the pool or just exploring the grounds.
You can plan trips around the grandchildren’s events. Baptisms, birthdays, soccer games, school plays, you name it. Try to sometimes go at a time when you can experience a special occasion in the child’s life.
You could also offer to stay with the kids for a couple of days and let mom and dad go away for a special trip of their own.
It’s good to work with the parents on these things. Find out what works for them, whether it’s you staying in the house or somewhere nearby. Plan ahead and save the money to travel to see your grandchildren. Once it’s on the calendar, you have the bonus of anticipation—yours and your grandchildren’s.
Planning ahead allows you to look for the best deals on travel and such. Plus, with plans in place you can talk to the kids about your upcoming visit during your regular phone calls/Facetime visits.
Remember Special Occasions
Who doesn’t like to get their own letters, cards, and packages? Children love these things. Birthdays and holidays are the obvious occasions. Handwritten cards will mean so much! Take it a step further and remember other things like the first day of school, the first game of the season, the loss of a pet, getting an award, or just because you were thinking of them.
A care package is also a special treat. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Fill a small box with some things picked out just for that child: a book, a game, a treat or two, a notebook and markers, or anything else you think they would like. You will have just as much fun picking things out, as they will have opening it. And in putting it together you will automatically feel closer to your grandchild as they will to you when they receive it.
Make a Family Picture Book
Take lots of pictures when you are together! There are online places that you can gather these memories of times together and make a book complete with captions. I’ve used Shutterfly to do this. Children love remembering good times with people they love!
You can do a book themed around a trip, such as if you all go somewhere together. Or it could be a general book of lots of things you’ve done. Or you could do one for each child and things you did with them.
Be sure and order two copies! One for you and one for your grandchild. You’ll love reliving the memories too.
I recently met up with my daughters and granddaughters in Disneyland and we took a ton of pictures. I set up a sharing album on my phone so everyone could add their pictures to it and we could all see each other’s pictures.
With so many pictures to choose from, I’m looking forward to making a memory book for each of us. (If you use Shutterfly, be sure to sign up for their emails, they have good deals quite often and it really helps on the price of the book.)
Share Family Traditions
My children were still in school when we moved away from our hometown and both sets of their grandparents. It was so hard!
We made the effort for several years to travel back to West Virginia to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas with their grandparents. We decided as a family that this tradition was too special to give up even if it meant traveling thousands of miles!
And fortunately, our families had room for us to stay, though as the children got older, we spread out among different houses.
While your own children may not be able to travel back home for holidays, you can create other traditions for when they visit that mimic getting together for a holiday.
Give them all something to look forward to when they visit! Plan at least one “get-everyone-together kind of event, whether it’s a dinner or outdoor cookout. Bonus points for giving it a special name so everyone begins to count on it happening and have a name to call it.
My parents did up Labor Day and we all treasure the memories from those events. My dad would decorate the yard with strings of pennants or flags. Family would travel from other states for this. They would have outside games for the kids, and of course lots of food. It was an annual event and one everyone looked forward to.
The kids other grandparents did a football watching party on New Year’s Day that involved of course, football on the TV all day as well as friends stopping by, and lots of delicious snacking food. My mother-in-law often served the same things year after year and we all looked forward to our favorites.
Organize a family vacation once a year. Airbnb makes getting a big family house affordable and fun. When you split the cost, you get the benefit of a lots of room at something that is cost-effective for everyone. Plus, you get a kitchen, so you save by preparing some or most meals at home. We met up with our in-laws once a year at the beach and it is the source of great memories for my children and their cousins.
The idea is to do something special, somewhere, with as much family as possible! Depending on your budget, you might foot the bill for the accommodations and let everyone else pay their travel and food.
These kinds of traditions help the grandchildren feel like part of a greater whole—their family!
How Long-Distance Grandparents Can Stay Close
Staying close while being long-distance takes effort and a certain mindset. But it is doable, and it is possible to not only be close but to build memories that will last a lifetime!
Like any relationship, it takes time and consistency to create and maintain a close bond. It’s so worth it though to stay close to your grandchildren, no matter where they live!
Coach with Sara
Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! My Think Big Life began shortly after I turned 50. Big changes can happen with a small start, an adjustment of thought, or a simple process. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 50-minute coaching session.