If you're looking to build a closer bond with your grandchildren start with the parents. Keeping in regular contact with parents and understanding what their schedules and needs are will help you be a better grandparent.
Psychotherapist and grandmother of seven, Dorthea Hoover-Kramer, Ed.D., RN, and author of Second Chance at Your Dream, says "Grandparenting over long distances involves good relationships with the children's parents since access has to be assisted by them – especially for pre-schoolers."
Just because you're a grandparent doesn't mean you need to spoil the grandkids with gifts everytime you see them. Instead, let them know you're thinking about them even when you're not together by sending things in the mail for them.
"For very young children I send cookies every 4-6 weeks just as a surprise and I keep telephone contact on Sunday nights," says Hoover. For older kids, she suggests sending interesting newspaper articles from your hometown paper. "It keeps the grandchildren connected to my surroundings and allows them to read to their parents." Hoover says for older grandkids "contributions for either buying an ipod or sending listening material works well."
Artist and best selling author Lin Wellford says art is a fun and inexpensive way to connect with grandkids. Author of the best selling books on rock painting, Wellford says "going out to collect rocks is a big part of the fun." She adds, "With less time devoted to arts in school, it is important that parents and grandparents ensure children get exposure to creativity at every opportunity." You don't have to be a professional artist to find an art or craft to share with your grandkids. Visit a hobby or craft store and find age appropriate activities that will allow you to have some quiet time to enjoy an activity and conversation with your grandkids.
What about making a scrapbook with your grandchild? Find out how to get started scrapbooking
If you're a grandparent to more than one grandchild you may find it challenging to devote quality time to each child. Grandmother and journalist Elaine Shimberg says "one activity usually doesn't fit all, unless it's a family dinner, I enjoy smaller groups where you can listen more."
Shimberg has several grandkids and has a variety of bonding activites she does with her grandchildren. "I've done everything from form a 'second-sister' club with one granddaughter who is in the middle and feels left out, to listening to a 16-year-old talk about his confusion on picking colleges." The point to remember here is to be flexible and allow as much time as you can for one on one with your grandkids in addition to the group activities you may do together.
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