This last few weeks with all the headlines in the news about Harry and Megan wishing to live thousands of miles away from the UK for a different lifestyle with their baby son, it reminds us of all the many Grandparents that deal with long-distance grandparenting and thought we would share our Top Tips for dealing with it.
When you thought of being a grandparent, you might have dreamt of being the type that’s hands on and fully involved in your grandchildren’s’ lives. Babysitting regularly to give the parents a free date night, taking your grandchildren on regular outings, making treats together, creating cute little projects, Being at all their special events. Or having sleepovers, making memories and being great friends.
However nowadays we live in a very mobile society and through no choice of your own you might find that being a long-distance grandparent whilst isn’t your preference its now the role we've been given.
Thing is being a long-distance grandparent does not mean you can't be an important and influential person in your grandchildren's lives, nor that you can’t be fully involved. You just need to learn how to be the best long-distance grandparents possible.
While obviously nothing beats being in the same physical space as your loved ones, there are plenty of creative ways to shrink the miles between you and your favourite loved ones and we have some Top Tips to help.
Kids are real whizz’s on Mobiles, Tablets and Computers, so you need to grow to love them too as these devices are going to enable you to Video Call your grandchild. Three prefect and cheap options are FaceTime on iPhone, or Apps like What’s App for Android phones or Skype on your computer. Easy to set up and priceless used.
Video calling allows you instant communication where you can be in the same room as the latest Lego construction, in the front row of the opening night of the latest stage show, or narrator of tonight’s bedtime story.
Kids can very easily get hooked on all this technology and because of this their excitement is totally real when they get a letter or parcel dropped through their letterbox with their name on it - Its still cool to do Snail Mail!
Old-fashioned who cares…… Kids love getting postcards from your travels, small packages full of little trinket “Saw this and thought of you” in it. Birthday cards, Well Done Cards, or Just make something up occasion cards all totally acceptable.
It can often be easier for grandparents to visit than parents pack half their house to travel with kids, but realistically it can financially draining if your grandchildren live thousands of miles away, but with some good planning you should try and visit as much as you can as those hugs really are worth it.
If you have to fly, why not subscribe to airline websites to be keep in the loop of special offers, you might be able to save up for airmiles or certain credit cards or breakdown cover such as the AA offer travel perks in their reward programmes so worth the research.
Thinking on a positive at least all your visit will be in holiday mode, but prep yourself for teary goodbyes, however if you can plan well then leaving with everyone knowing when you will be visiting next will definitely help with this.
If your grandchild is growing up in a foreign country, then the chances are they could be speaking another language and you could be struggling with a Language barrier as well as a distance issue. So why not try and learn the language too, even if it’s just the basics because even though it wont be your main way of communicating with them they will really appreciate your efforts.
Obviously, you’re not going to forget your grandchild’s birthday but why not keep a note of all the other dates that are important to your grandchild so you can make a fuss over those as well.
Dates like christening, holy communion, school disco, exam dates, first day of school, the date they will be making their promise at cubs or brownies, their first camp out, Swimming test, ballet grading, prom night… you get the gist.
You can share in the excitement or preparation leading up to the event, wish them luck and see all the photos.
We are in an era that is very much driven by Social Networking which whist it makes it super easy to share photos and events with grandparents, often many parents worry about putting every single photo or event out there for everyone to see on Facebook or Instagram, for example holiday snaps is a promotion of our house is empty please go rob me or posting school concert photos could get them in hot water with the school as they can't post pictures publically that include other children, so an easy solution is to create a Moment Garden.
Moment Garden is an app that can be used on bother iPhone and Android and creates a Private, Safe way for Parents to share their Child's Story with Grandparents. It 100% will help to bring the family together, it backs up your photos so never lost, and you can even create moment books.
Don’t let your moments of sadness caused by the distance between you overspill into bitterness. Remind yourself to be happy for them, as the distance could be because your son or daughter has a better job, better quality of life, better opportunities, or better weather so they can live a healthier outdoor family life.
Also you never know the distance could make every be more proactive about keeping in touch, meaning you could end up being closer and more up to date with things that’s going on in their lives than if they did live just around the corner.
An easy way to share your recipes with a grandchild is to post them to a private journal. Anyone can set one up and a really popular option is Penzu, it’s a free, totally safe, private and 100% customizable online journal.
Or if you want it to look really pretty you can always set up a private food blog using a platform like WordPress would work for this.
If your grandchild is interested in cooking this would be the perfect way to share a hobby and some family traditions or pass on family secrets to how to make the perfect birthday cake. And as the grandkids get older, they can start leaving you some of their favourites back for you to try.
Not forgetting the use of video calls, you can even cook together as well, passing on your knowledge and when you do visit you can enjoy munching on the treats together.
Online Gaming is huge and most definitely a growing trend. There are loads of options on the most obvious Xbox or PlayStation which gives you the playing option of being able to chat with you play. However, there’s plenty on PC as well like Words with Friends or Scrabble with Friends. You just need to do a bit of research to find what one to play together.
Keep asking for up to date photos of your grandchildren so you can put them in photo frames and keep them on display and when your missing them you will always be able to see their cheeky smiles.
Vice Versa, make sure you send up to date photos of you to your grandchild so they can do the same and always see you when they miss you, you will be giving them something they will cherish forever.
For kids a cool idea to remind them of who is in their family and special events is to put together alphabet photo book for them.
You can include things like "A" is for auntie and then insert photos of their aunties. "G" is for grandparents and insert pictures of yourself.
You can totally run with this idea and make it your own, include your pets, your garden and even photos of their mum or dad as a child. Heck if it goes well you could even send them a new one each year!
For young children bedtime story reading is precious and loved. There are actually books that you can buy that you can record yourself reading so they will always hear your voice, you can get the online from likes of Amazon or Hallmark, but they can be quite pricey.
Although a cheaper option is to once again embrace technology why not simply use your mobile or table and video yourself reading a story and either email it or if too large you can send via a cloud service such as Google Drive, One Drive or WeTransfer
And don’t forget once recorded post them the book and then they can not only enjoy listening to you, but they can follow the words in the book as you read it.
Some days you might feel down about Long-distance Grandparenting and that’s ok. Hopefully some of these tips will help with that. Just don’t forget the most important Tip of all....
Be the Real You and be a Real Presence in their Lives. This alone they will love you for, for All their Life!