It may take a village to raise a child, but often the village is hundreds of miles away. With parents moving away from their childhood homes to pursue education or jobs, access to grandparents becomes a gap.
More than half of grandparents surveyed recently by AARP said that they have at least one grandchild more than 200 miles away, and another third reported at least 50 miles away.
The distance – whether by miles or six feet – doesn’t end the chances for a blossoming grandparent-grandchild relationship.
Apps and computer programs can bridge the distance. If you have to, help your parents or grandparents set up their own accounts, and save the passwords. Stay in contact with your siblings so that they can encourage the use of apps with their kids, too.
These apps and programs are great not just for conversations, but for grandparents to read stories before bed, play games and even help with homework.
- Skype: The web-based tool is universal and can be downloaded as an app to a computer or phone. Skype-to-Skype calls and video chats are free to users.
- Zoom: A tool that has gained exposure and prominence through the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom allows multiple families to meet from many different locations. If you want to gather lots of households in multiple timezones together, this is a great solution. Take note, though, that meetings of more than 45 minutes will require a subscription.
- FaceTime: If grandparents and grandchildren have access to iPhones, iPads or an Apple computer, FaceTime is a free app that comes downloaded into the system. It works like a phone call and connects families seamlessly (perfect for older grandparents who don’t want to download another app).
- Facebook Portal: Like other apps, the portal is a face-to-face video conference caller, but unlike the other apps, it’s a device that you set up in your room with a camera that tracks you. It also includes filtering options, so grandparents can read the story of the three pigs, for instance, and wear a pig hat or nose on the screen. There is a cost for the device.
Social media solutions
Even if your family can’t see your kids grow up, sharing photos and videos helps them see what kids are doing each day. If the grandparents aren’t on social media platforms, help them sign up and start their own profiles. There are lots of other options to share pictures and videos privately. (Also consider uploading your child’s artwork so grandparents can view it or print it out for their own walls.)
- Digital frames: Send photos from your phone in Illinois to a digital frame in California or even Southern Illinois and the frame will update in real time. With this system, grandparents don’t have to wait for physical prints to arrive in the mail and their frames will always have new pictures. Some frames include: NixPlay, Pix-Star, Aura and Skylight.
- Private photo sharing: If you prefer to let grandparents pick and choose their favorite photos, try a photo sharing system. Google Drive users know how easy it is to create a folder with photos and share access to the album. Amazon Prime customers have an unlimited cloud for photos and can pick and choose which of those to share with family members (you can also order prints from Amazon). Flickr offers privacy settings so that photo can be uploaded and shared. Snapfish and Shutterfly also allow you to create albums to share or sharing sites so that the family can share photos back and forth and print their favorites.
- Social media platforms: As Gen Xers and Millennials, we are well-versed in the ways of social media. Grandparents, maybe not so much. Let your parents in on the secrets of Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, even if they never post their own photos. They can lurk around on your social media pages to keep up with your busy life. You can also create private groups on Facebook to let extended family see pictures and videos of your kids.
Tried and true methods
Don’t forget the U.S. Postal Service. Our parents taught us how to write thank you notes and send cards all those many years ago, now is your chance to pass on the gift of letter writing. Kids can design their own stationary, add stickers if they want and grandparents always treasure anything with their grandkids’ writing on it.
- Write letters: Even if it’s just three sentences or you let your toddler dictate to you, teach your kids to write letters. Or, have your child draw a picture specifically for his or her grandparents, which will give them both something to talk about during the next computer, “face-to-face” call. This is a great reciprocal, too, because people of all ages love getting mail! Your kids and their grandparents can become great pen pals.
- Share a journal: Start a journal-sharing project. Each week your kids write about what they’re doing and what they’re looking forward to, then you ship it to Grandma and Grandpa. The grands write in the journal and ship it back.
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