How close do your children live to their grandparents? Can your daughter open the front door and walk a few blocks to Grammy's house when she wants to show her a picture she just drew? Or would your son have to catch a few planes just to let Grandpa know, face-to-face, that he had made the school basketball team?
Over the years, the concept of families living in close proximity to each other over a lifetime has started to change. It's not always a given that grown children will move back to their hometowns once they get married and/or have children of their own. But what effect does this have on families? How do we make sure that our children are connected and known by their grandparents that they may only see a few times a year? And how do we maintain that age old concept that it "takes a village to raise a child" when that village can be spread over several hundreds of miles?
Our family is fortunate that we have one side of the family close by (an hour away) while the other side of the family is a day's long drive away. We want our children to see all of their grandparents as much as they can. Forming memories with them is so critical at this time because my parents (and my husband's parents) are so willing and eager to spend time with them. They still have the energy to keep up with their grandchildren, something that I know will one day change. Here are some of the few ways we try and keep our children connected with their grandparents:
1. Visit with them as much as possible
Nothing can trump actual one-on-one time with a grandparent when it comes to making memories. Grandparents are willing to read piles of books, play with play dough, attend kids' sports games, and many other things just to be close to their grandchild. We try and give our children ample opportunities to make memories with their grandparents. This may be as simple as a day visit that includes a trip to the ice cream store or something as elaborate as a multi-generational family vacation. Whatever the event, we feel that actual, in-person contact with grandparents is the best way to make and preserve memories.
2. Become pen pals
My grandparents (my childrens' great-grandparents) live a long distance away and are in their late 80's. Although they are in good health, it is hard for them to take long trips to see us. As a way to keep in touch, they have started writing letters and sending cards to my children. My kids love receiving letters from them and then dictating ones to me for us to send back. It provides a connection between them that is often hard to forge with great-grandparents. I'm planning on saving the letters so that they'll have a reminder later in life of the sweet things their great-grandparents said to them.
3. Skype or Facetime
In my opinion, one of the greatest things to come out of the current influx in social median is Skype and/or Facetime. Both allow my children to have face-to-face contact with their grandparents any time they want. It's great for younger children who sometimes don't have the patience to sit and listen to Grandma on the phone and it gives them the ability to actually show their grandparents what they've been up to lately. My kids' grandparents always get a tour of our house and an introduction to any new toys or artwork when we talk to them via Facetime. Both kids and grandparents love it.
4. Grandparent camp
Although going out of town without children (especially if the children are young) can be a daunting idea, it can be made much easier if a grandparent is willing to watch your children. Although they know it will be exhausting, many grandparents will jump at the chance to spend a few uninterrupted days with their grandchildren. It also means that you get to have a few uninterrupted days as well, something every parent needs! Sure the schedule may not be kept, the house will get messy, and your kids will be spoiled, but memories will be made and your parents and your children will grow even closer in the process.
All of these are just several ways that our family tries to keep our kids and their grandparents linked. What about your family? Are big family trips part of your summer plans? Does Grandma watch the kids one night a week so you and your husband can go on a date night? I'd love to hear additional ways that you keep your family connected.