How Can I Help My Children and My Parents Stay Connected Long Distance?
My parents live in New England far from my own family in Virginia. While I know it is important for children to have grandparents in their lives, with our busy schedules, we are only able to see them in person a few times a year. Both my grandparents and my husband’s grandparents always played important roles in our lives.
I’m sure you probably run into this situation often in your work with seniors, so I’m hoping you have ideas we can use to help connect these two generations of our family despite the distance?
Connecting Two Generations Long Distance
You aren’t alone in your desire to find ways to stay connected with loved ones across the miles. While the average adult child lives only 18 miles away from their parent(s), 20 percent live two or more hours away. For long distance families, maintaining close family bonds might feel like a big challenge.
But it is important to make the effort. As you mentioned, grandparents play an important role in the family, including:
Teacher: Because they frequently have more leisure time, grandparents often teach grandchildren life skills. From planting a vegetable garden to baking cookies, memories and relationships are built on these interactions.
Historian: Grandparents fill the role of the historian in many families. Their stories and life experiences help grandchildren learn about and connect with their heritage.
Role Model: Research on the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren shows a positive correlation between kind, empathic behaviors in children who have grandparents involved in their lives.
Advisor: It’s no secret that pre-teen and teen years can be tumultuous for parents. If kids have a grandparent actively involved in their life, one they know loves them unconditionally, they might be inclined to turn to the family elder for advice.
Connecting Generations Across the Miles
Fortunately, technology makes it easier for several generations of a family to connect, no matter how many miles separate them. While some people may think older adults can’t master technology, evidence proves otherwise.
If your parent doesn’t already own one, investing in a tablet like an iPad® is a senior-friendly means of connecting. Email, Facebook and video chat services like Skype are all avenues for helping your family stay in touch.
But it might help to take it a bit further than just a quick video call to ask about their day. Here are a few ideas:
Read together: Depending upon your children’s ages, you might be able to include the grandparent in story time. Video chat services make that easier to do. If you and your parent both purchase the same book, the grandparent can read to the children via video chat while the children follow along in their own book.
Art projects: Children and adults of all ages often enjoy engaging in art projects. Arts and crafts projects are some of the most popular activities at Benchmark Senior Living communities. Instead of letting your child’s artwork pile up unappreciated on the counter, box some of it up a few times a month to send to the grandparents. This will give the two groups something more to talk about on their phone calls while helping the grandparents feel connected.
Joke books/calendars: Another fun activity the two generations can engage in together is telling jokes. Children usually love to make people laugh! Joke books and joke-of-the-day calendars are an inexpensive way to learn “new material” and share it during video chats.
Sports team: Does your child have a favorite sports team? Maybe the grandparents can follow the team, too. Finding common ground will give them something to discuss.
Photo journal: Have your children and your parents text or email one another photos or videos of how they spend their days. Maybe the grandparents can send photos of themselves during their favorite exercise class and lunch out with friends. And the kids can share photos of their friends, school and other activities.
I hope this gives you ideas both generations of your family will enjoy, Abbey!