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10 Great Tips for Long‑Distance Grandloving


Sue Johnson and Julie Carlson, mother-in-law/daughter-in-law co-authors of

Grandloving: Making Memories with Your Grandchildren


Put some topspin in your letters and pizzazz in your calls. Whenever you energize communications to grandchildren with stories and games only you can impart, you make yourself more memorable.  So get ready, grandparents. We're going to give you the tools you need to make your relationship actually improve between visits!


 1. Smile! Photos and Movies Just for Grandchildren

With ideas like these, you'll no longer be "out of sight, out of mind." You might laminate and send pictures of yourself to use as a "night‑night board" to kiss before bed or as a placemat smiling up at every meal.  Or glue your photo onto posterboard, cut it into a puzzle, and send it with the note, "Put this together and see who loves you!"  And don't overlook videos‑‑cameras can be rented by the day. For your grandbabies, try filming yourself playing peek‑a‑boo or singing "Twinkle, twinkle."  Older grandchildren will enjoy a video "tour" of your home and neighborhood, especially before a visit. Any personalized production will become an heirloom that your grandchildren will love.


  2. The Stories We Share:  Creating a Family History with Grandchildren

Here's a great way to start a family history project.  First, record on an audiocassette a "sound scrapbook" of favorite family anecdotes.  You might detail how you fell in love, what it was like to raise your children, and the ways in which you handled hardship and enjoyed good times.  Then enclose another, blank tape with some questions for your grandchildren to answer.  You might also try making a photo and story history book with your grandchild.  Just send treasures back and forth by mail and designate one of you as the "keeper." If you let your grandchildren's imaginations take flight, you'll end up with a multimedia extravaganza.  Original paintings, markered drawings, written or dictated favorite family tales, and photographs will make a priceless family history.


 3. Connecting by Phone with Your Young Chatters

What is the name of that scrappy neighbor child who worries your granddaughter so?    And what's that funny word your grandson uses for "car" or the name of your grandteen's girlfriend?  Asking open‑ended questions, paying special attention to feelings, and respecting a child's need to solve some problems alone will draw out grandchildren of all ages.  You might even keep a little pad by the phone to help you remember comments from call to call.  Keeping track of these details shows how much you care.


  4. Coins, Stamps, or . . . Spiders? Starting a Collection with Your Grandchild

Perhaps your little ones, like Bert on Sesame Street, love to hoard bottle caps.  Maybe your older grandchildren have a knack for putting on puppet shows or finding bugs to catalogue.  Perhaps you both have a passion for fishing, woodworking, or trying out creative recipes. Whatever your grandchild's interest, you can build on it by starting a collection or nurturing a hobby together.  The best part will be the experience of learning something new together.



  5. Signatures with a Twist

Grandbabies in our family don't have to read to know something's from Oma‑‑they smile as soon as they smell her perfumed envelopes.  And a winking, happy face from Grandpa is their cue to see what's inside.  Your personalized "signature" will touch your youngest grandchildren and start a unique family tradition that even grandteens won't want to end.  You can extend this idea to any kind of communication‑‑try inventing a new way to say goodbye on the  phone, a smiling sideways "face" at the end of an email message (using a colon and end parenthesis), or a special stamp to decorate every package.


  6. Gruppa's Coming!  Special Ideas for Before and After Visits

Anticipating the fun of a visit with a creative picture "calendar" will intrigue your young grandchildren.  Simply draw a big box for each day of your visit‑‑or their visit to you‑‑and decide together what to do that day. With words, imaginative drawings, or photos, this wish list of activities to share can be passed back and forth until you're together again.  After your visit, try continuing the fun by leaving love notes or small gifts‑‑if you send a "treasure map" afterward your little pirates will be thrilled!


 7. Grandloving in Cyberspace

If you and your grandchild both have home computers and an internet service, you can use email to stay close. Because of its nearly instantaneous delivery, you may find yourself writing more frequently and casually than ever.  You can also buy a fax modem that will send images to be colored on or displayed.  In our family, pictures by grandchildren are passed to grandparents' computers, and Nick's toddler giggle is now our computers' "error alert" sound.  If you don't have a fax of your own, try your local copy shop.  These new technologies can make a long‑distance relationship seem as close as next door.


 8. Rewind, Fast Forward, Play: Grandma's Telling a Story

Your voice, whether confident or shaky, couldn't be more special to your littlest family members.  Read a story, sing a song, sing a story, read a song‑‑any combination will do.  You might also read (or rap!) a nursery rhyme, talk as you make a favorite recipe (you can send a tasty sample, too), read off a list of "I love you because" statements, or even make a tape of sound "riddles."


 9. Mystery, Intrigue, Drama . . .Opa Sent a Secret Letter!

Whether you try your hand at "magical mirror messages" (written backwards), make your own special letter codes, or start a story that can be exchanged, playful games, puzzles, and add‑on stories can recharge any long‑distance relationship.  You might buy a blank puzzle, write and draw on it, and then divide the pieces to send in two or three separate envelopes.  The most important thing is to keep sending those letters. Purchase stamps and preaddressed labels, and have envelopes ready to go!


  10. Bookin' Along with Grandpa and Grandma

Here's one foolproof way to get a cooperative book project started‑‑ask your preschooler grandchildren what they would put into cookies. Applesauce?  Pepperoni?  Oatmeal?  Whatever their imaginative response, jot it down with others in a shared recipe book.  You might want to put a favorite "real" recipe on one side and your grandchild's whimsical version on the facing page.  Pictures they draw of the two of you cooking together will make perfect illustrations. Keeping a journal for each grandchild is also a wonderful way to share your thoughts and hopes.  Let your grandchildren rediscover theirs every time you see each other.  Your grandchildren will love hearing all that you've written, and you will have the satisfaction of having created a personal keepsake for each of them.




Learning to send your love by phone, email, fax, and mail can be a bittersweet part of long-distance grandparenting.  But the next time you see your grandchild after a long separation, you'll be rewarded with a flash of recognition, a big smile, and a happy shout of "Opa!" or "Bubbie!" that will make all your efforts worthwhile.  Even your stranger‑shy grandtoddlers and twos will be laughing with you before you know it.  It's for these times, and for the hope that you can be an essential part of your grandchild's life no matter how distant your homes, that we know you will continue to package the best of your love and send it in ways that will delight your grandchildren.


Copyright 2006 by Sue Johnson and Julie Carlson, co-authors

Grandloving: Making Memories with Your Grandchildren, 4th edition ISBN 978-0-9675349-6-1

Heartstrings Press, 49 Starview Place, Lancaster, VA  22503, 1-800 262-1546


 (Reprinted by SeniorArk with permission of the authors)