When I was little, I relished spending time with my grandmother; I knew the contours of her apartment as well as I knew my own, and would giggle delightedly when she gave me rides down the hallway in a cardboard box “car.”
I always hoped my daughter Sophie would forge the type of connection with my parents that I had with my grandma, a closeness that defied space and time, and even her own mortality. But my parents are long-distance grandparents… and with stay-at-home orders still in place, the 300 miles of highway that stand between us now seem much farther than that. Yet with no clarity on when travel will be safe again, I have been brainstorming ways to keep my parents in our daily lives — and hope some of these ideas will be useful to you too.
SCHEDULE ZOOM OR FACETIME CALLS
Video conferencing has become a lifeline to many of us during this pandemic. Weekly — or even daily — calls with long-distance grandparents are a great way to stay connected, and an easy item to incorporate into your schedule. Spice up these video chats by doing an activity “together,” like an arts and crafts project, cooking a favorite meal or watching a movie at the same time.
BECOME PEN PALS
Many of our children today don’t know the excitement of opening a letter from a pen pal, but now is an opportunity to give snail mail a try. My daughter loves receiving her own mail (especially if stickers are involved), and I’m willing to bet it would brighten up a grandparent’s day to see a drawing or handmade card in the mailbox.
HAVE DIGITAL STORY TIME
Schedule digital story time with Grandma and Grandpa! If your parents or in-laws don’t have any books handy, they can channel their creativity into making up their own stories. A longtime favorite in my household was Donald Donald Meets a Stranger; trust me, 30 years later, I still haven’t forgotten it.
MAKE A FAMILY SCRAPBOOK
Dust off those old family pictures or print some new ones, and compile a family scrapbook. Your child’s grandparents could contribute to the project by sending photos or old memorabilia to include.
FOLLOW A FAMILY RECIPE
Nothing tastes the same as Mom’s home-cooked meals, but you might come close if you try a family recipe. Let your child help with the meal prep, and remind them they’re making Grandma or Grandpa’s special dish. If you want to go the extra mile, have Grandma and Grandpa prepare the same meal, and then video chat while you eat it “together.”
USE SHARED PHOTO STREAMS
Start a photo stream with long-distance grandparents to share pictures and videos that document how you’re spending your days. This may be especially meaningful for loved ones who might be feeling isolated during this time period, so snap plenty of extra photos and share them!
READ ABOUT SEPARATION
Toddlers and other young children may not fully understand why they’re not seeing their grandparents lately — so keep Grandma and Grandpa close to your child’s heart by reading books that emphasize love and connectedness between loved ones… despite the distance. Here are some recommendations.
The Invisible String: A book that teaches our kids that an invisible string is made of love, and “though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love.”
Your Moon, My Moon: A Grandmother’s Words to a Faraway Child: This illustrated poem “celebrates the importance of staying close to your family, even across thousands of miles.”
Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You: This is a beautiful book by Nancy Tillman, one of my favorite children’s authors, and is an excellent choice for the youngest of kids. Tillman writes, “Life up your face, feel the wind in your hair. That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.”