For some grandparents, bonding with their grandchildren can be a rewarding, yet challenging prospect. Each grandparent faces different obstacles — long-distances between family members, non-traditional family types, and the simple generational differences — but with a little time and effort, most of these can be overcome.
With this spirit in mind, here are a few simple ideas to create a strong bond with your grandchildren:
Face time — It may sound obvious, but one the most impactful ways to bond with your grandchildren is to see them. For grandparents who live within a reasonable distance of their grandchildren, find time to visit every couple of months and spend quality time during those visits by playing cards, coloring or any other activity. For some grandparents, however, monthly visits are not a possibility. In cases of long-distance grandparenting, be sure to utilize free video chat programs and tools such as Skype or Google Hangouts. While video chatting isn’t the same as face-to-face time, it is a vast improvement over phone calls and allows you to see your grandchildrens’ faces.
Share your stories — Generational gaps may seem cavernous at times, but sharing stories with your grandchildren can help them relate to you. Hearing stories about your life, childhood and their parents could provide perspective and help children relate to how things were “long, long ago.” For children of a certain age, they will begin to appreciate how different things were back in the day and will likely marvel at your stories.
Be a little different — Every grandparent is known for the small, but special things they do. Consider developing a small routine that grandchildren expect to do when they visit or interact with you. For example, when your grandchildren visit, you could find a doorway or wall and measure their height — every time they visit they will get measured to see how much they’ve grown. In long distance cases, find a small, yet consistent way to interact with them. Consider mailing them a letter every month or two to develop a consistent rapport — they will be eagerly awaiting your next letter, and will love seeing their name on the envelope.
Go one-on-one — Regardless of whether you see your grandchildren every two weeks or twice a year, spending individual time with each one is important. In some cases, grandparents have multiple grandchildren, and while you will likely see them in groups, it is important to carve out time for each one to avoid favoritism. Get to know each child individually and find a few small things that capture their interest and only do those activities with them. As a result, each child will feel like they have an individual bond with you.