One of the best gifts you can give your kids’ grandparents this year for Grandparents Day (Sept. 11) is to encourage a close relationship with your kids. Kids enjoy having a connection to your family history through grandparents and will benefit from having an adult to talk to who loves them but is not entrenched in the day-to-day tasks of parenting.
Here are five ways you can encourage your children to connect with their grandparents regardless of how far or close they live to you:
Set up a date
Although baby-sitting grandchildren is a good way to spend time together, it is also important for children to spend time with their grandchildren on other occasions. For grandparents who live close by, set up a regular time each week or month for your kids to spend time with them. This establishes a relationship and memories distinct from you and other siblings. The date can be for a few hours after school or for a sleepover on the weekend. By setting a regular schedule, such as the first Saturday of the month or every other Wednesday, this special time together is less likely to get overlooked. If your child’s grandparents live long distance, try to set up a date for your child to spend time alone with a grandparent during visits.
Use technology to communicate
If you have teenagers, think about how your child likes to communicate with his friends. Encourage your child to communicate with his grandparents using text or instant messaging and, if necessary, teach Grandpa how to send a text or set up a chat. By using your child’s favorite technology, she will be more likely to share things in a spontaneous way and enjoy talking with her grandparents.
For grandparents who live long distance, consider setting up a webcam so your child can have a video conference with their grandparents. Both you and your child’s grandparent will need a basic webcam that can be purchased for $30-$40. Your child can see Grandma on the computer screen and the grandparents will enjoy being able to view the child’s expressions and how much they have grown.
Write letters to each other
While technology is a wonderful tool to keep in touch, writing letters to each other is a very personal way of communicating. While many people send e-mail regularly, handwritten letters are special and more likely to be saved for years.
Have your child and their grandparents pick out a journal together and take turns writing their thoughts in it. Encourage them to write stories about their life, share memories of each other and ask each other questions. For long-distance grandparents, take turns writing in the journal and mail the book to each other. If a journal mailing is an obstacle, have your child and his grandparents write letters to each other and store the letters in a special box.
Share a book
Books are a great way to connect generations and many classics are still loved by children today. For younger children, encourage the grandparent to read your child one of their favorite picture books. An option for grandparents who live in another town is to make a digital video recording of them reading a book to your child. They can either send the file to you or put the video on a sharing website such as YouTube. If they are unfamiliar with the technology, you can set up the tools for them on your next visit. While your child is watching the video, have her follow along with her own copy of the same book.
If your child is reading chapter books, have her ask her grandparents to read the same book she is reading. Encourage talking about the book after they have both finished. Once they have finished with the book, have the grandparent pick out a book to read together next.
Start a hobby or project together
Another way for grandparents and grandchildren to connect is to share a hobby or activity. Encourage the grandparent to take an interest in your child’s hobbies and have the child teach the grandparent about things she is interested in. If the grandparent has a hobby, such as fishing or sewing, have them introduce your child to the hobby. In addition to being a fun way to spend time together, this is a great way to pass family traditions and memories to the next generation.
Another idea is for the pair to complete a project together, such as starting a garden together or building a birdhouse. For grandparents living far away, pick a project they can do during a visit and talk about while they are apart. Encourage your child’s grandparent to pick a project that is age appropriate for your child.
As your child begins to develop a close bond with his grandparents, be sure to step back and let the relationship flourish. As they become closer, your child and their grandparents will start coming up with their own ideas for activities to share together.