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There was a time when families lived close together. Grandparents were in the same town and were always around to watch the grandkids and attend all their events. Their house was a haven for grandkids "escaping" their parents and a place to go to eat warm cookies and bask in unconditional love. Grandparents had an active role and were often taken for granted.
Today the modern family is often spread across the country. Grandparents become people seen at holidays or major events such as graduation or weddings. Children sometimes know grandparents only as a signature on a gift check or an overly-affectionate older person seen once a year at Christmas.
Despite the distance, it is not only possible but imperative that grandparents remain an active force in their grandchildren's life. A conmnection with a grandparent is a bond like no other to a child. It is a link to the past, a reminder that parents were once children too. Grandparents make history come alive linking children to another time and putting a personal stamp on past events.
So knowing how important grandparents are, how do you keep in touch from far away? The key is regular and varied communication. If your grandkids are on-line, learn to use e-mail and dash off a message to them often. Whether using e-mail or writing the old-fashioned way make an effort to keep in touch regularly, not just on birthdays and holidays. Send them articles on their current interests. Ask them about their experiences and relate them to stories of their parents at that age. Send an occasional funny or encouraging card. Toss in a few stickers, a comic strip that made you think of them or a leaf from your yard. Don't forget to let them know what you're doing as well- tell them about your garden, your volunteer work or your hobbies. Avoid comparing them to their siblings or cousins- make them feel as special as they are! For smaller children, send pictures of you, your house, pets, etc. so they'll be less shy when they come to see you. For all ages postcards from your travels are great.
A surprise package is always welcome. Some cookies would be a sweet surprise to celebrate a triumph or soothe a loss. Don't go overboard- remember they really just want to know someone is thinking about them. And don't forget the power of a phone call- little kids may not be too talkative but they love to hear your voice. And older kids will be impressed that you called just to talk to them- call their parents back later!
Sometimes your efforts may seem one-sided but know that they are worth it. Your grandkids will keep you close in heart and mind and make your actual visits with them that much sweeter.