Grandparents with scattered children and grandchildren can still stay in touch. Here are a few ideas for bonding with the rising generation, even those who live at great distances:
1. Meet together regularly
That's tricky when travel is expensive, so some families meet yearly or even every other year. A few tips can help with organizing these gatherings:
Take turns organizing
Some families have a special place they always go. Others may meet in a different location every time, chosen by that year's organizer. Divide the cooking, cleaning and other chores among the participating families democratically, so no one feels overwhelmed or unfairly treated.
Keep it inexpensive so the biggest cost is transportation
Sometimes the grandparents underwrite the costs of getting their family together.
Expect everyone to be there
Let the family dynamic and "peer pressure" make the reunion a must.
Try to keep it fun
Most families find the best choice is a schedule of loosely organized activities with plenty of time for unstructured visiting. Some families stage a family Olympics with silly games like knocking down blocks with a ball thrown from a dishtowel sling. Others may invite everyone to come with a family music video they've created. It's smart to have some activities specifically tailored to helping the grandkids enjoy each other.
Order T-shirts, helping everyone to recall and enjoy the memories
Take family pictures and share them in printed books.
2. Between events, visit the families whenever possible
and make a point to spend time with the grandchildren. Vacations with just the grandparents and grandchildren can be an especially good way to bond.
3. Get social
Texting, Facebook and Twitter may sound like a foreign language to people who grew up with black-and-white TV, but today's teens and tweens are natives of the digital age. Grandparents who establish their own accounts can not only share the social networking experience with their grandchildren, but can also eavesdrop on what's happening in their everyday social lives.
4. Try to share their interests
Read the same young adult novels they're reading and take them to see the movies they most enjoy. Keep DVDs of other movies they like and cultivate some board games they find engaging that can become a tradition of visits to the grandparents' home.
5. Remember them at Christmas and every birthday
It may be worth keeping a special calendar for reminders of when these occur. Ask their parents what kinds of gifts they will most enjoy and note what they play with when you visit them. When possible, travel to attend major life events, such as graduations.
6. Talk on the phone
Telephone conversations don't have to involve just the adults. It can take some imagination to engage young children, but staying in touch can be worth it. Some families use Skype and other long-distance methods to make both a voice and sight connection.
These tips can help families foster children who love and support one another, grandchildren who look forward to meeting with their cousins, and grandparents who have a sense of their grandchildren are as individuals - even when they're growing up at a distance.