Sign up for the weekly Parenting & Relationships newsletter for news and advice to help you be a better parent, partner, friend, family member or colleague.
My kids have been seeing one set of their grandparents a bit this summer, but when school starts again, we don’t want to take any chances. And they haven’t seen their other grandparents since the winter since we couldn’t travel to see them this summer. I’m really sad for all of us. Do you have any tips for how we can make this separation easier?
The loss of time and connection has been so difficult for grandparents and grandchildren alike but there are so many ways to ease the separation. I reached out to Kerry Byrne of The Long Distance Grandparent website for some suggestions to help everyone stay connected.
Schedule a weekly “grand date.” Kerry suggests that we plan virtual visits. “Connect every week on a Saturday morning or for Sunday dinner so kids know what to expect. Invite both sets of grandparents to join at the same time to lessen the video fatigue.”
Prepare and Play Preparing for video chats increases the chances your children will want to return to the grand date. Kerry suggests themed dinners together such as Taco Tuesdays or Sundae Sundays. Another idea is to play games that serve the dual purpose of fun and learning about one another. For example, have a virtual quiz night with the topic of the quiz about different family members. Kerry suggests, “Have everyone come up with five questions and include active questions for younger children. Ask questions such as ‘Has anyone in the family ever broken a bone?’, ‘Can Mommy touch her tongue to her nose?’, ‘If Grandma could eat one thing for the rest of her life, what would it be?’ ‘Can Grandpa pat his head and rub his belly at the same time? This can be played in a True or False format for younger kids.”
Batch-connect your snail mail Similar to batch-cooking meals, sit down once a month and have the kids draw pictures or work on crafts to send. Kerry suggests giving them a specific task (e.g., Grandma needs a picture for her wallet or for her fridge) to make it more meaningful for them. For older grandchildren, have them print out articles about topics they are interested in to discuss on a video chat. While the kids create the art, parents can address and stamp multiple envelopes to be used throughout the month. Bonus, as Kerry says: “A trip to the mailbox is a great way to break up the day.”
Work on a service project together from a distance Brainstorm to find a shared interest. For example, if grandparents and grandkids share a love of animals, they can all donate newspapers or pet supplies to a local animal shelter. Do it together virtually or meet up on your grand date and share what you each did. Take selfies of each family dropping off the supplies. This is a beautiful way to create a bond between them around a certain passion.
Preserve your virtual time together Take screenshots of your Zoom chats or photos of the kids video chatting with their grandparents. Kerry says, “As kids grow up, they’ll see how their grandparents were committed enough to ‘be there’ virtually for them and with them.” These photos will serve as memories of your time together and capture a period in history that children will learn about in school for generations to come.
If you’ve never celebrated Grandparents Day before, this is the year to start. It falls on September 13th this year. Send a video of your children singing “Happy Grandparents Day to you” to the tune of Happy Birthday or an e-mail with ‘Three things we love about Grandma and Grandpa.’ It’s also a great opportunity for parents to acknowledge how important their own parents or in-laws are in their children’s lives. Write them a short note or text and share your favourite memory about them as a grandparent.
This pandemic won’t last forever. Your parents and your children will both appreciate the efforts you make to help them stay connected.
Sarah Rosensweet is a parenting coach who lives in Toronto with her husband and three children, ages 12, 15 and 18. Do you have a parenting question? Send your dilemmas to email@example.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.