A Grand Prize for
Distant Grandparents

by Jessica Fisher

Many of us have wondered what it would be like to pick up the phone and hear a voice on the other end, announcing that we’ve won the grand prize in a sweepstakes.

For grandparents, a small voice saying, “Hi Gwampa! Whatcha doin?” brings just as big of a smile. Indeed, to our parents and in-laws, receiving a phone call from the the grandkids is certainly right up there with that grand-prize phone call.

In this modern age of job transfers and a global economy, many families have long-distance relationships. With the aid of computers, fiber optics and rapid shipping resources, we have the opportunity to cultivate meaningful long-distance relationships.

Encouraging multi-generational relationships takes work, especially across many miles. But resulting affection, care and friendships will benefit you and those around you. Here are some suggestions.

Make frequent phone calls. If your budget allows, invest in an unlimited long distance telephone program so that your family can speak freely. Encourage your little ones to pick up the receiver as well. Children as young as age 1 will be fascinated by the voice they hear magnified. Explain to the grandparents that your kids might not be super-talkative, or know the art of conversation. Suggest topics that they might ask your child about. If phone calls are a regular habit, your kids will open up more as they grow older and will look forward to these chats.

Send pictures often. Whether by snail mail or electronics, pictures are getting easier and easier to send. Pre-address several envelopes and keep them ready for a few duplicate photos every month. If you have a digital camera, e-mail a few shots every time you download your pics.

Children grow so fast, grandparents will enjoy seeing how they change. Likewise, make photos of the grandparents available to your children so that they will be able to associate faces with names and voices. Keeping a scrapbook or photo album handy can help. Consider placing framed pictures in the kids’ rooms. Photos of grandparents and children together is an excellent way to reinforce happy memories.

Share stories. If your children are old enough, encourage them to share an exciting bit of news with their grandparents. Prompt a phone call, if necessary. Or just make the call yourself. I love to hear my mom laugh as I tell her what my boys’ latest antics have been. My anecdotes help her to know their personalities and to ask better questions when she talks to them.

Try to keep your stories positive, particularly while your kids are young. They will discover soon enough that your parents are human, too. Let them enjoy a foundation of love and respect for their elders as well as forging relationships on their own.

Write letters and e-mail. Whether your family prefers pen-and-paper or electronic mail, encourage a pen pal relationship between the generations. Very young children can dictate to you what they want to say. Letter-writing is also a helpful way for young students to practice penmanship and writing skills.

Start a blog. Free web-logs are an easy means of communicating stories and pictures to far-away family or friends that live far off. Our family blog has been going strong for about a year. I regularly post pictures, stories and even birthday wish lists for the grandparents. While not as personal as other methods of communicating, it is a quick way to share what’s going on. Blog sites include www.blogger.com, www.wordpress.org and www.xanga.com

Send care packages. As time and your budget allow, engage your children to prepare gift boxes to send to their grandparents. Allow your children to be creative and give them some choice in what’s included. You’ll be surprised how touched the grandparents will be.

Plan visits. If you can swing it, plan to visit the grandparents regularly.

Your children can know and love their grandparents, despite the distance. The value of these relationships far surpasses anything a sweepstakes grand prize can offer.

Jessica Fisher is a freelance writer.