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How To Have An Active Role As Long Distance Grandparents

Lolo & Nate | Updated: August 5, 2021

Bringing our sons into the world has been the two proudest moments of our lives.

It is an absolute privilege to see them grow and develop into happy and healthy children.

But to be completely honest, it’s a bittersweet situation as half of their extended family, including grandparents, live on the other side of the world.

Rather than accepting this as ‘how it’s going to be’, we continually look at ways for their grandparents to have an active role in their lives.

The best part… It’s working!

Whether you are long distance grandparents looking for advice or parents wanting to improve the grandparent/grandchild relationship, we’ve got you covered.

long distance grandparents pinterest image

Why You Should Help Kids Form A Relationship With Long Distance Grandparents

A study by Sara M. Moorman, Ph.D. and Jeffrey E. Stokes, MA showed that a close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren reduces depressive symptoms for both parties.

The health benefits are clear which is why keeping or creating an active role is vital.

Also, the word ‘active’ is key in this situation, as many relationships that have to endure some kind of distance or separation can become passive.

Further research by Professor Ann Buchanan proved that when grandparents have a high-level of involvement it improves the child’s well-being, which can lead to fewer behavioral and emotional problems.

This research was a ‘lightbulb moment’ for us.

How Staying Connected Benefits Grandparents

positive effects for grandparents who have a great relationship with grandkids

As grandparents get older many of us can unconsciously discount their ability to help and even their desire to do so.

The majority of the time it couldn’t be further from the truth and heading down this path can have a detrimental impact on their overall wellbeing.

Having an active role can lead to fewer feelings of loneliness and has also been shown to increase cognitive function as Katherine Burn and Cassandra Szoeke found out.

Need further proof? The video below shows how such a connection can light up each other’s lives.

We think the evidence is CLEAR 🙂

Creating this kind of environment, even ‘digital’, will benefit everyone involved.

Here are some of the tips for long distance grandparents that we’ve tested or prioritized in our routine.

Our Tips & Advice For Long Distance Grandparents

Prioritize Video Calls Over Voice Calls 

video calls with grandparents at a distance

Video calls create a visual experience that gives you much more of an immersive feeling.

Nothing can compare to being able to see facial expressions and reactions, which also gives better feedback and fewer misunderstandings.

Seriously, who doesn’t want to see their grandchildren develop overtime!

It’s important to remember that these calls don’t have to take a lot of time. Even short, regular video calls can have a big impact and at the end of the day, it all counts.

With the likes of Facebook Portal TV and numerous other messaging services, making quick and free video calls has never been easier.

Schedule Calls

scheduling video calls to create a routine

We know just how unexpectedly hectic life can become.

That’s why we believe agreeing on a time to schedule calls is super important.

Adding calls ahead of time to your family schedule will help you stick to your plan in a sense that you’re not trying to work calls around other things because they have already been included!

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Benjamin Franklin

It can be easy to say that you’ll call once a week. But if nothing is set it will be hard to keep up and before you know it, months may have passed.

Take a moment to sit down and figure out what day and time is best for everyone.

If you want to make sure no call is missed, sharing a calendar invites and alarms is the way to go.

Share Deeper Thoughts & Feelings

Share deeper thoughts and feelings

Conversations between grandchildren and grandparents can be quite limited.

They will often talk about school or what they did in their day but beyond that, it can feel hard to communicate further. Having more in-depth chats can be a wonderful way to connect on levels you may never have thought were possible.

Using active listening and asking deeper questions will help to build stronger family relationships.

When we say deeper it doesn’t mean having life altering discussions :). It means exploring subjects that help us understand each other a little better.

Some great sources for questions include:

Remember: Just because there is a wide age gap doesn’t mean you can’t have deep discussions. Grandparents also have a wealth of experience which will be invaluable for a grandchild. 

Be An Active Listener

how active listening strengthens relationships

Relationship Australia’s 2011 survey showed that communication difficulty is the second most reason for relationship breakdown. Active listening is important tool that can help.

You may be asking yourself, “What the heck is active listening!?”.

Genie Price from MyChildMagazine.com.au describes it as:

Active listening, also known as reflective listening, or the empathetic ear can be acquired with practice. As its name suggests, active listening means giving your full attention to a conversation, not just simply “hearing” the message.

We believe this can be broken down into three steps:

  1. Listen intently
  2. Avoid distractions, and
  3. Ask follow up questions

These steps help to create an environment that allows everyone to be open, honest and feel supported, which can only help to further strengthen the bond!

Celebrate milestones

Celebrate milestones to get the grandparents more involved.

Milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries are the perfect excuse to get together and do something special.

Now in the case of celebrating with long distance grandparents, ‘getting together’ may not always be possible. But acknowledging these important events, even digitally, is vital!

An example we love to give is comparing a video call to sending a card.

How long would it take to buy, write and send a greeting card? You may think it’s not that long but when you factor in things like travel time, 30 to 60 minutes is much more reasonable.

Now, imagine spending that time on a video call. Which do you think would light up their lives more? 🙂

TIP: For those grandparents with a lot of grandchildren, a great idea is to note down each milestone in a calendar. Not just to make sure these events aren’t missed, but to also let them or their parents know ahead of time that you want to carve out some time to chat.

Gifts That Build Upon The Relationship

gifts to help connect grandparents and grandchildren

It’s widely known, and backed by research, that giving gifts makes us happier than receiving.

So why not light up their life, including your own, with a gift that can help strengthen your relationship?

Whether it’s couples, friends or families, technology has become an amazing tool for all long distance relationships and it’s no different for long distance grandparents!

Why? Well, we’re glad you asked 🙂

There are products that have been created solely to strengthen relationships separated by distance. They help keep the connection alive with loved ones that could dwindle if left to their own devices.

The best part is that they are super easy to set up and use making them perfect for people of all ages. Some great options include:

lovebox messenger

Lovebox Messenger

This is a heartwarming way of sending traditional messages using modern technology. When a message is sent, the heart on box spins to notify you of a new message. Simply lift the lid and you can read what’s on the screen inside.

Find out more

long distance lamps by friendlamps.com

Friendship lamps

These unique lamps use wifi & touch technology to control each other. They have an easy to follow setup process and only require wifi to work! Simply tap one of the lamps and the other will light up instantly, letting them know they are in your thoughts.

Visit Friendlamps.com

portal tv video call with long distance grandparents

Facebook Portal TV

This is hands down the best way for senior family members to chat with family. The system connects directly to the TV and has an easy to use remote, similar to a TV, which all family members will be accustomed to.

Buy on Amazon

Looking for a useful and practical gift? Here’s our take on the best gifts for long distance grandparents that won’t collect dust!

Games To Play With Long Distance Grandchildren

Games for long distance grandparents to play with grandchildren

Whether online or in-person, games give grandparents and grandchildren a fun way to interact with each other.

For those of us who are a little less ‘tech savvy’, you may have feelings of dread thinking about how intricate video games can be.

But fear not!

There are many ‘easy to play’ options that are sure to create some memorable moments.

Kerry Byrne, PhD, founder of thelongdistancegrandparent.com, has put together some fantastic games you can play over video chat. Some include:

  1. The memory tray game
  2. Crafting with household items, and
  3. Teaching your grandchildren jokes

Check out her article to find out more about the ins and outs of each game: Easy & Fun Games You Can Play Over Zoom With Grandchildren

If you know your way around a smartphone there are a few games that bring ‘old favorites’ into the 21st Century, such as:

Not only do games like this act as a fun learning experience but they can also last a long time as both players don’t need to be active in the app at the same time to play.

We think this is a great place to start but it’s also a good idea to talk about your mutual interests. See what you both enjoy and search online if there is a game to get stuck into!

Read To Younger Grandchildren

reading with long distance grandchildren

We all know reading to and with kids is good for their development, but just how good is it?

Neural research has found it improves their logic skills, lowers stress levels and even rewire their brains to amplify language proficiency [source]. Reading together also plays an important role in strengthening the bond between parent/grandparent and child.

When it comes to long distance grandparents, bedtime reading may not be ideal due to time zones and conflicting schedules. The most important part is making the effort and working together to create a routine that works for everyone.

An easy to use option, that is sure to get grandchildren excited is an app called Together. They’ve created an immersive video call tool, which has integrated games and books that grandparents and grandchildren can read, no matter where they are in the world!

What we really like is that the team at Together has made the application available across all popular devices. There are iOS and Android apps for smartphones or tablets, plus the ability to use a Mac or PC.

Speaking of apps, we dove in and found the best apps for grandparents and grandchildren to stay connected.

Swap Physical Letters

Send physical letters to grandchildren

While sending online messages has become the norm, they can start to feel impersonal. There are a ton reasons why sending physical, handwritten physical letters is an amazing way to communicate.

But for us, we love it because a much more thoughtful way to stay in touch and it reaffirms the importance of your relationship.

A cool bi-product of swapping letters with a younger grandchild is that you’ll get to see their reading, writing and comprehension develop overtime!

Not only is this super special, but it also means you’ll have precious keepsakes to treasure for the rest of your life.

Not sure what to write? Check out Deborah Haddix’s article on 14 Practical Tips for Writing “Snail Mail” Letters to Your Grandchildren.

Visit As Much As Possible

grandmother showing plants to grandchildren

While this is an obvious inclusion, we wanted to include it because of just how important it is to visit each other as much as possible.

It’s easy to say ‘there’s always next year’ but at some point there won’t be a next year.

If you want to quantify how many times you’ll see your long distance grandparents before the inevitable, check out SeeYourFolks.com.

We don’t mean to finish on a depressive note but it’s something we’ve grappled with on more than one occasion.

Our parents, our children’s grandparents are not going to be around forever and we have to make the most of the opportunities we have to visit.

No matter how far apart.

Now It’s Your Turn!

We have no doubt that implementing just one of these tips into your routine will have a positive impact on the relationships and wellbeing for all involved.

The benefits are clear for and now it’s up to you!

We’d love to hear from you. Let us know, in the comments below, what tips you’re excited to try out or if there are any other’s you’ve implemented and are having amazing results.

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Hi, we are Lolo (Canada) & Nate (Australia) a couple that had to go through all that a long distance relationship has to offer, just like you. With our experience and lessons learned we want to help you keep your long distance relationship as strong as ever and ultimately last the distance!