With families spread out across the country or even in other countries, distance is creating challenges for grandparents who are trying to get to know their grandchildren.
Growing up in a time when families tended to stay in the same city or town, parents are now seeing their children leaving for other areas to find employment and may see their grandchildren only occasionally.
What keeps grandparents from following their children to another area?
- Many grandparents are still quite young and have careers of their own.
- Finances may keep them situated where they currently live.
- Health problems may mean they need to stay close to their current doctors and hospitals.
- Climate can also be a factor. Some are unable to put up with heat or humidity, often due to medical reasons. Others can’t bear cold, snow, sleet and freezing rain. Just as extreme weather conditions are hard on the elderly, some areas also contain pollutants or pollens which cause allergies.
- City or country living – which will it be? Those who are used to the city can’t stand the thought of moving to a small town or village. Others who live in very rural areas would be unhappy living in a large, noisy city.
- There is always the possibility that if you move to be near your grandchild, the family may need to uproot again and move elsewhere. Also, if you have several children, all with grandchildren, where do you go?
What can grandparents do to get to know their grandchildren better?
- If possible, plan a once a year visit or have your children and grandchildren visit you if they can.
- Make memories together with your grandchild. Share a hobby or keep them updated with information on other members of the family or ancestors.
- When your grandchildren are a little older, become their mentor. Help them with your advice and knowledge.
- Send cards and letters, especially to older grandchildren who can write back. Social media is fine but mail is more personal.
- Holidays are especially difficult and this is the time to take advantage of one of the most useful tools for seniors. Video chat using Skype, FaceTime or something similar allows you to see and speak with your grandchildren, the next best thing to being there. For babies, have a puppet or stuffed toy in your hand for them to focus on. For those a little older, trying reading a book through video chat.
As difficult as these long distance family relationships are, don’t let your life revolve around your children and grandchildren. Learn to build a life of your own, especially if you’re retired. It makes you more interesting to all of the family!