I didn’t grow up near either set of my grandparents. However, I learned to have a great grandparent/grandchild relationship with them even though they were miles away. Connecting generations, when we lived in Alaska and they were in California and Rhode Island, must not have been easy for my parents. Since becoming a parent myself I have fallen in awe of watching my mother and father take on their new role as grandparents with such vigor and grace. It broke my heart when my first born was just six weeks old and we moved to Colorado after living five minutes away from my parents.
With the new distance, we made it a daily ritual to video chat. They made a habit of sending care packages, holiday, and “just because” cards to my daughter. My daughter is almost three and loves to check the mail every day to see if there is something from her Nana and PopPop. Fortunately, we are now living a 2-hour drive away from my parents so my kids get to see them more. Time spent witnessing the grandparent/grandchild relationship is truly priceless. In this day in age, we are so lucky to have technology like video chat, cell phones, and instant messaging to keep in contact.
Here are some other ways you can help to develop and enhance the grandparent relationship with your own kids.
1. Celebrate National Grandparents Day
National Grandparents Day is celebrated the first Sunday after Labor Day. This is not just another holiday invented by Hallmark to sell cards. Marian McQuade was the visionary behind this celebration that was proclaimed a national holiday by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. The purpose of this day is “to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of the strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.” A day of celebration to connect the whole family while remembering and bridging generations.
2. Correspond—-Write Letters & Video Chat
Modern technology is great but sometimes it is nice to be old fashioned and write cards and send thank yous. Try sending a note of appreciation or just a card to “say hi.” This shows an investment in time and energy compared to how instant sending an email or text can be. When grandparents are far away, keeping up with the lost art of writing letters is so important. You can turn it into a pen-pal type of game especially when children are a bit older. Topics could range from simple everyday situations or bigger subjects like what is happening in the world. The written word is so incredibly honest and what a great personal gift to share with each other.
The invention of video chat has definitely helped to connect generations to allow people to see their loved ones in real time. Make this video chat time even more special and have your child read a book, sing a song, or put on a dance show for their grandparents!
3. Compassion—-Read Together
Children reading with their grandparents is an excellent way to start to nurture compassion at a young age. The magical world of books can help ignite so many wonders in a child. Reading together with older generations can help start conversations, share ideas, values, and even create new adventures or activities to try together. There are some great picture books out there about kids and their grandparents! One of my favorites is Miss Rumphius, by Barabara Cooney. This sweet story is about the Lupine Lady whose grandfather asks her to make the world a more beautiful place.
4. Create—-Learn or Share a Hobby Together
Help spark creativity in children by letting a grandparent teach them about their favorite hobbies. Wheather it is fishing, cooking, sewing, dancing, or playing dominoes, these skills and talents are special to share.
5. Connect Generations
If your children are not close to their grandparents or if they are no longer with us, there are many other wonderful ways to help connect generations. There are organizations that help connect seniors with younger people that want to be there for them. Find a surrogate through an Adopt-a-grandparent program or volunteer with your children at a local nursing home.
Intergenerational travel is another fantastic way to develop this bond. Programs like Road Scholar specialize in this type of travel. I also love the idea of planning a virtual trip together! Choose a country, check out books from the library, watch movies about the chosen place, and cook regional specialties together. Check out Global Trek for some itineraries and ideas.