New Connections To The Olden Days
When I was a kid, all we had to do was walk across the street to go visit grandma and grandpa. In fact, grandpa had a barber shop on our street, Loveland Avenue, where I got my haircut. Grandma enjoyed gardening and cooking, so I could usually find her in the backyard weeding the flower beds or in the kitchen baking a cake. Today, things aren't always so simple.
1. Encourage letter writing.
Letters may have been replaced by email most of the time, but there is still nothing like getting mail in the mailbox for kids or grandparents! Encourage the grandparents to regularly send mail addressed to each child -- once a month would be great.Ask them to tell a story about themselves when they were little in each letter-- they can even start with something like, "Once upon a time, when he was a little boy, grandpa had a bicycleâ€¦" This could make for a great bedtime story -- and be sure to save the series of handwritten letters which will become a precious keepsake.Grandparents who live far away will also appreciate a letter containing their grandchild's school artwork, that first A of the school year, or a letter in the child's own handwriting.
2. Take phone conversations to a new level.
Instead of the normal everyday small talk (school, weather, sports, etc.), equip your kids with a special question to ask their grandparents and a piece of paper or notebook to write down their answers -- or conference call/webcam technology could help you record the phone call.Here are a few topic ideas to get them started:
The point of asking the questions is that pretty soon the grandchildren can actually see grandma or grandpa in a new way-- they once were children too! This can deepen their relationship because grandchildren will then be able to relate better. Also, grandparents love to share their stories if they know that the grandchild would actually like to listen.
3. Plan vacations or long weekends together.
This summer, my husband and I included my parents -- who, because we live four hours apart, only get to see my two kids every couple of months -- in a week-long vacation to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The trip involved over 2,000 miles of driving.My son and grandpa actually figured out a way to play baseball in the car! Mom enjoyed license plate Bingo and the wax museum as much as the kids did. We had plenty of time for storytelling and questions about outhouses, farming, and life before TV. We even learned, for the first time, about a relative named Waldo who had disappeared years ago (now "Where's Waldo?" has new meaning for my kids). The trip was unforgettable for all of us -- there's nothing like a crowded minivan and hours of driving to bring a family together!As you consider how your family can connect over long distances, keep in mind that YOU, as the parent, are a vital link between your parents and your children -- so of course, all of these ideas will involve you. It's important to be intentional about making this connection, or they may never know each other in a deep or lasting way. It's critical to build relationships to last for generations -- and that involves new conversations, telling stories, and sharing more than just photo albums.
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