Grandmothers are the people who take great delight in hearing babies breathing into the phone.
It can be a SUPER difficult thing for a gung ho grandma to live far away from her grandchildren. We want to be able to hug them, talk to them, sing songs, and spend time together to create bonding memories. What do we do if we are not physically present to do those things on a regular basis?
We worry that they won’t “know us”.
The AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons) says that almost half of all grandparents live more than 200 miles from their grandchildren and spend less time with them than they would like because of the distance. Despite this, most grandmas still feel like they are a significant part of their grandchildren’s lives.
I only have one grandchild that lives in the same city as me, who I can see regularly. But what about my grandbabies that I may have to get on an airplane to see? Grandmas want to have a close relationship with all their grandkids … what are we to do?
Here are 2 ideas for using technology to stay close and connected with grandchildren who live far away…
1. Using Video-Chat Technologies
You can use Facetime, Skype, Google Chat, or a variety of other face-to-face technologies to talk to (and see) your grandchildren whenever you want, and you can use them in a variety of ways. You can read them a story while their mom is doing the laundry. You can witness first words, first steps, or first anythings, new outfits, haircuts and art projects. You can sing songs together, or you can listen as they practice a presentation for you that they have to give at school the next day. Their parents can take the IPod along and you can watch your grandchild in a dance recital or at a basketball tournament.
These electronic devices are a miracle for staying in touch, for your grandchild knowing your face and voice. When my 4 month old granddaughter moved away for 6 months, I was worried she wouldn’t know me the next time I saw her. I Facetimed with her every few days, and each time I did I sang the same short song to her. When I saw her about 1 1/2 months later, she saw my face and recognized it, but when I sang that same song to her, she smiled and laughed. It was like she was thinking, “Oh, it’s that woman who sings to me!”
When they are little, read the same picture books and sing the same songs when you have your real visits that you did during your virtual visits. Your grandchild will recognize the pictures and the sound of your voice.
You can give your young grandchild a gift or treat while video-chatting with the cooperation of their parents. The parents need to have the same treat/gift as you do, but you show yours to the child and they need to hide theirs (maybe behind their backs). When you move the gift/treat to the screen, the parents bring out the gift and make it look like it is coming from the screen. Obviously this would only work for younger children (though it would be funny as a joke to give a teenager their birthday present!).
If you are just going to talk to them on the phone, maybe have their parents show them a large photograph of you as you chat so they associate your face and voice together (and maybe laminate it for all those sticky little fingers).
A young child’s attention span is short, so a 5-10 minute call every couple of days will probably work better than a 45 minute call that happens once a week. All of this is dependent on the child’s parents of course … you need their permission and cooperation to connect with your young grandchildren using technology (older grandkids will be more independent).
2. Social Networks
“Staying in touch with family members is one of the main motivations for using social media,” says Mary Madden, one of The Pew Research Center’s senior researchers, “and that’s especially true for adults aged 50 to 64.”
When an older grandchild, or their family, has a Facebook page, it is a great way to go on the computer and see what is happening in their lives. When we lived in Dubai and my children were in Canada going to school, Facebook was one of the best ways for me to see photos, send private message, share links on the Internet, and send birthday greetings or “good-luck-in-your-exam” messages to my kids. I faithfully checked it every day, seeing what my kids and their friends were up to.
You can also set up a private group on Facebook, where you and your grandchildren are the only members and you are the only ones who can see the posts. Then you can share messages and information, and make plans for when you get together. You can share links from the Internet that you think are funny, inspirational or helpful to grandkids in your gung ho grandma Facebook group. The kids can post music videos of their favorite bands, or share posts of comedians or things they find funny … this will help you understand the music they like and their sense of humor.
Sending text messages on their phones is a fast way to send them a little message to say you are thinking of them or to ask how they did in a school presentation. Learn how to use emoticons to make your texts more fun. The text can be short and sweet, but it gives you a connection with them during the day. You can also send a photo of something you are experiencing that day, like a selfie of you in front of flowers at the garden show you are visiting for the afternoon. Teenagers regularly check their phones for text messages …
Instagram is a wonderful way for you to see photos they are posting of their everyday lives and to regularly see those faces you love so much. Remember to not be too intrusive on these social media sites … if a photo of your grandson appears on Instagram, holding some girl’s hand, maybe just “like” it at first instead of barrage him with questions or make embarrassing comments.
In the end, don’t dwell on the fact you live far away from your grandchild … dwell on all the ways you are able to be in their lives. In this day of amazing technology, there are many ways to still develop a close relationship with them across the miles.
How do you use technology to stay in touch with your grandchildren? Leave a comment below and share your experiences … I would love to hear about them!
And if you like the idea using technology to connect with grandchildren, please share it with other grandmas!