How to Stay Close With Grandparents While Far Away

a grandfather holding his grandson
(Courtesy of Rebecca Alwine)

Growing up I was very close to my grandparents. I was lucky enough to have four grandparents and three great-grandparents for most of my childhood. I lived close enough for weekend visits and overnights in the summer.

But the summer before seventh grade, my parents moved us from New Jersey to Virginia, placing us six hours away from our grandparents. My relationship with them remained as strong as when we were an hour away, and over the years (and the miles) it is still incredibly strong. My military children are lucky to have an equally strong relationship with their grandparents and great-grandparents as I do.

From the first year Declan (now 6) was born, I made sure that I showed him how important those relationships were. When both kids were born, we lived in Germany. Over the first two months of Declan’s birth, my mother and mother-in-law came to visit. I remembered crying one day (we’re blaming hormones and a pending deployment) because Declan would be almost 3 months old before my dad got to see him. Each time my husband deployed, I would bring the kids home. Sometimes for a visit, sometimes to stay for the duration.

My kids have four grandparents and five great-grandparents who absolutely adore them. I know they all wish we lived closer (we did for about 20 months) but we keep in touch really well. My kids skype with most of the members of our family regularly. We even get my 92-year-old grandmother on Skype at Christmas time. Vacations usually consist of seeing family back in Virginia. In fact, this summer, my kids saw my grandparents without me. My mother took them and my niece to see her parents and her sister. The kids had a blast!

Do you want to keep your kids' relationships strong with their grandparents from a distance? Here's how we do it.

How to keep the relationship with grandparents strong:

1. Digital photo frames. My grandmothers both have a digital picture frame. I take pictures on my phone and email them straight there.

2. Facebook! Our parents and my husband’s grandparents have Facebook. They get to follow along with our lives that way.

3. Skype. We Skype as much as possible. Especially at the holidays when the whole family is together (well, everyone except us.)

4. Make visits a priority. We arrange visits. My in-laws come out to Arizona once a year and my parents both came out last summer as well. My sister and brother try to come to visit, and my niece spent two weeks with us last year.

5. Become pen-pals. We write letters. My son is very observant, and when he noticed the new community center was almost finished, he was disappointed when it didn’t immediately open. He wanted to know why the inside took so much longer. I had him write to his great-grandfather, who is all-knowing about electric work, constructions, etc. and ask him why. Pop-Pop replied back and was thrilled to share.

6. Cherish pictures. My children love to go through pictures. They like to identify who the people are and try to remember what we were doing at that point.

Last year, for Thanksgiving Break, my family headed to California to visit with my aunt and uncle. Lucky for us, it was also the year my grandparents traveled for Thanksgiving. My children had so much fun. They made cookies and played and made so many fantastic memories. I am so lucky that my family is so supportive of my husband and our military lives. (Some of them are because they lived the military lifestyle.) I wish we could always live within a few hours of them, but I’m so glad that the relationships we are building can survive the distance.

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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at rebecca.alwine@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebecca_alwine.

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