In today’s age, a large percentage of grandparents live at least 200 miles away from their grandchildren. This can cause some delays in bonding but the opportunity is still there and with the help of technology it can be much easier than it was 20 years ago. Far or near a first great step towards forging a bond is communication. Whether its phone calls, snail mail or email (for the older kids) it’s a great way to really get to know who your grandchildren are and what interests them. If some of them like playing computer games, join in on their world! If they read the Hunger Games, surprise them and read one or all three! It will set the pace for how they see you (involved!) and encourage them to keep communication open.
Being a grandparent has the advantage of being once removed from the actual parenting role that is usually accompanied by stress inducing scenarios like carpooling, grocery shopping, getting ready for school and etc. So embrace the role and remember to respect their parent’s rules. A lot of grandparents may want to over indulge their grandkids (or worse be overly strict) but try to remember that straying from rules they experience at home can lead to bad behavior later on when they’re back at home with mom and dad. Establish some ground rules with your own children about what they want in the life of their child(ren), your grandchild(ren). Go over the family rules, so you can stay consistent for the grandchildren when they’re away from home. Consistency makes for a much easier visit for you and the kids! This is also a great opportunity for you to establish what kind of things you want to be a part of, such as school events, school pick-ups occasionally or if you’d like to babysit (and how often).
Whatever you do with your grandchildren make it easy and indulge in their hobbies or vice versa. Now-a-days everything is so rushed and meets such instant gratification it is a healthy balance to do things that are outside and involve slow paced enjoyment. You’re trying to build long lasting memories and who better for them, than the family member with the most experience and knowledge. Taking your granddaughter or grandson outside to build something or garden may spark an interest in them that they’ll want to continue with you long term & it will become something special. Try and remember to have some one-on-one time with each grandchild and know that however you treat the first kids that come along, you’ll have to continue tradition with those that are born later. Don’t play favorites!
If you’re far from the grandkids, try planning some vacation time together. This will involve a little research. If you have a destination in mind, look for family fun activities in that area. You can build up a list and pitch them to the kids for some feedback. The point is to be prepared. If you’re worried that you’ll have too much pressure to make things interesting there are camps that cater to grandparent and grandchildren attendees with pre-organized events, like the Saga Grands Intergenerational Camp in the beautiful Adirondacks of New York state. You could also take the kids on a cruise with companies like Disney or Norwegian, who have youth programs & activities.
If you’re thinking of doing some quality time vacationing here are some simple tips to make it easier:
Try a “stay-cation” first. Do something solo with the kids in town and/or try an overnight. That way you can get a taste of what having them alone is going to be like and you can trouble shoot anything that may arise, for instance how to handle home sickness or tantrums.
Stay connected. Letting the kids FaceTime or Skype are completely acceptable in moderation. Let the kids catch up with mom and dad about their day but don’t let them cling either. The separation and time away is healthy whether they believe it or not.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Make sure with your doctor that you’re in good health for any trips you plan to orchestrate. If you’re worried about not being able to unwind at any portion of it, stay at a hotel that will provide some child care in the evening so you can go to dinner for a break away.
Stick to the rules. Don’t veer off mom and dad’s rules too much. Sure some allowances can be made but if a certain behavior warrants a time out, enforce it. Do not permit behavior their parents wouldn’t.
The goal of your interactions is to connect so wherever you go share stories, work on something together, bring out the old photos and give them a history lesson on their family tree. Even playing games you used to play with their parents will make them feel even more bonded. Stretch the time in ways that interest both of you. And most importantly tell them how much you love them.
By the 50 PLUS REPORT Editorial Team