In recent years, studies (like this one and this one) have shown that kids who feel connected to their extended family and have a sense of family history are more confident, more resilient and more likely to have successful relationships later in life. As grandparents, you have an important role to play in their lives, but distance, changing culture and other circumstances can make it difficult to bond with your grandchildren.
Not to worry! Here are five simple things you can do to to forge a strong relationship with your grandkids!
1 - Create Together
There's no better way to create connection and memories than to have fun making something together. Doing something as simple as baking cookies becomes a cherished memory. How about building a bird house or just drawing a picture? Pay attention to things your grandkids are already drawn to and use that as your entry point.
2 - Pass Along Something Your Grandparents Taught You
As we hurtle ever faster toward the future, it's important to stay connected to the past. You are uniquely qualified to help preserve and pass down skills that are in danger of being forgotten. My Nana taught me how to finger knit. I'd never even HEARD of finger knitting and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I can't wait to teach my grandchildren how to do it! Is there something you learned as a child that your grandkids haven’t had the opportunity to learn? Pass it down!
3 - Share Their Parents' Childhood with Them
Dig out the baby books, scrap books or old family photos. Tell them stories about what their mom or dad were like as kids. The idea that their parents were once kids seems distant and abstract, make it concrete by sharing some awkward jr. high school photos or stories of how their dad learned to ride a bike. Learning about their parents’ ups and downs will give kids perspective on their own difficulties and give them real examples of resilience and persistence.
4 - Have THEM Teach YOU Something!
Try asking them to teach you how to play their favorite video game and then PLAY with them. Ask them how to text message or how to use their favorite app. Let them be the authority on something, it's a wonderful way to show that you respect the things they know and like. Trust me, if you learn how to play Pokemon, they'll tell all the kids at school how awesomely cool you are!
5 - Stay in Touch!
If you're far away from your grandkids, use every means available to stay in touch. Become pen pals and use actual pen and paper to correspond. A fun way to keep up a correspondence is by starting a letter journal. Buy a special journal for each grandchild and take turns writing entries in it and mailing it back and forth. When the journal is full you have an instantly archived record of your correspondence. Then you can get a new notebook and start a new chapter in your relationship! (Our reusable journal covers are perfect for that!) Keeping in touch over distance lets you can skip the stilted conversations about their favorite subject at school when you visit.
It might be tempting to feel like everyone's just too busy to make time for these kinds of activities, but believe me, you are going to be creating bonds that inform the kind of grandparents your grandkids become. That's pretty powerful stuff and well worth the effort! You can do it!