Sometimes, regardless of how much we wish things could be different, grandchildren and their parents move away from Grandma and Grandpa. Perhaps there's a better financial situation for Mom or Dad farther away, or maybe it's a marital split that results in beloved grandbabies being relocated farther from grandparents than ever before.
I have always been a long-distance grandma--my grandsons have never lived near me. So I can only imagine how heartbreaking it must be to learn grandchildren who lived nearby will soon live miles and miles away. Such a transition is surely hurtful not only for the grandparents, but for the grandchildren, too.
As a longtime long-distance grandma, though, I do know there are a few things that can make the distance a wee bit less painful. The separation will still stink, I won't lie, but these ideas can go a long way toward keeping grandparents and grandchildren connected despite the distance.
Spend some time before the grandkiddos hit the road gathering the following items for them to take when they leave, perhaps in a special bag for easy access as well as safekeeping:
- A photo album or framed photo of a special times shared.
- A laminated card that includes your phone number, email address, mailing address so they will always know how to reach you, whether they need to or not. This is mostly for older kids, but younger ones will feel special simply knowing they have the info on hand.
- Add your Skype user name to that laminated card then ensure the child knows how to Skype (with Mom or Dad's Skype account as well as their permission and/or assistance).
- A joint email account. Head to Gmail and create an account specifically for that grandchild and you to exchange notes and pictures plus links to videos and websites he or she will enjoy--all accessible to Mom and Dad, of course, for keeping the kiddo safe online on their end. If you have more than one grandchild, be sure to keep track of which accounts are shared with whom and the passwords. And don't forget to add the accounts to that handy laminated card.
- For real mail, include a folder, tin, or special box with paper for notes or drawings along with several self-addressed, stamped envelopes and postcards (use the "Forever" stamps as rates will surely increase). Let the child know he can write or draw pictures and mail them to you any time. (And be sure to write them back!)
- A shared blog for older kids. Before the child leaves, work together on a simple (and free!) Blogger.com blog with "private" setting so it's visible to only those with the password, meaning you, the child, and the parents.
- Honor the child by giving him or her one of your special possessions for safekeeping and remembering you. Perhaps a piece of jewelry, knick knack, fishing lure, handicraft, or such.
- A copy of a book you enjoyed together. Or maybe the very book you often shared.
- The recipe for one of your homemade treats or eats the child especially enjoys. Consider one that older kids can make with supervision from a parent or that a parent will make now and then when requested by younger kids.
- A blanket or afghan the child can wrap up in when needing a hug from Grandma or Grandpa. Perhaps spray it lightly with your signature perfume (or cologne, for Grandpa). Heck... consider sending the whole bottle with the kiddo--or his or her mom--for refreshing the scent now and then.
- Agreement on a "thinking of you" trigger: Choose something specific--a road sign, color, type of tree, animal, song or something else that you both agree on--that will remind you both of one another each time it's encountered.
- And last--yet certainly not least: Knowledge that regardless of the distance, the child will always be in your thoughts and heart, that exciting things lie ahead as together you make a pact to seek unique ways to sustain and strengthen your bond til you see each other again.
A version of this article previously appeared on Grandma's Briefs.