Grandchildren and grandparents benefit from a close relationship with each other. Sometimes children and their grandparents bond right away, especially if they live close to each other and spend time together often. If grandparents don't live close by you might have to work a little harder, but you can still foster a great relationship between your children and their grandparents. Consider the following ways to help your children connect with these very important relatives.

Use technology to your advantage

Services like Skype and FaceTime (for Apple products) allow you to make video calls from your computer or phone via the Internet or your cellular network. Video calls help children connect because they can see their grandparents on the screen. Children can show artwork, report cards, sing songs, and be more relaxed and engaged than on a traditional telephone call. Grandparents can show more personality and expression. Some families have Skype conversations scheduled weekly, a virtual Sunday evening visit to Grandma's house.

Don't forget about snail mail

Getting letters in the mail is a treat for children. Even if Grandma lives nearby, communicating by letter is a fun way to stay in touch. Children can tell about school and activities or write short stories or poems. Small children can color simple pictures to send in the mail. When my grandmother was ill and in a nursing facility, I sent her letters and my children sent notes and drawings. Receiving the mail brightened her day. Sending postcards from interesting travel locations is also a fun idea for both grandparents and grandchildren.

Plan visits and outings

I invite my children's grandparents to visit often. We enjoy preparing for their arrival as a family. The children make a welcome sign to post on the front door. While they are here, I encourage the children to ask grandma and grandpa to read them a story or play a game with them. The kids often ride in grandpa and grandma's car so they can spend more time together. If your children's grandparents live nearby, plan simple outings like taking a walk, having a picnic, or going to a grandchild's sporting event. Time together is time well spent.

If your grandparents can't travel, visit them. I don't expect to be entertained when we visit. Rather, we try to love and serve our grandparents. My Dad loves to have my older children run errands with him and do odd jobs around the house. My Mom has the kids help fill her bird feeders and water her plants.

Learn from grandparents

My grandma didn't know how to knit or crochet, but did know how to make delicious donuts, and we did that together for several Christmases. There are many skills grandparents can teach their grandchildren. My dad plays the drums, so he can help my son practice when they are together. My husband's mother knows lots of family stories, so she can show photos and teach my children about their ancestors. Think of skills your parents and in-laws have that you would like your children to learn, and then ask them to share.

Have meaningful discussions

Grandparents have a lot to teach their grandchildren. They grew up in an era where hard work was an important value and respect was more commonplace. Grandchildren can learn a lot from the life experiences of their grandparents. They might also find out they have things in common. My grandma told me about swing dancing to big band music as a young adult, something I enjoyed doing as well. Recording some of these memories and thoughts will provide a treasured keepsake for the grandchild, as well as remind them of the connection they have with their grandparents.

Encouraging a stronger bond between grandparents and grandchildren might take a little effort, but the reward of a nurturing relationship is well worth it. Grandparents can offer unconditional love and help make growing up easier on both grandchildren and their parents.

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