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Connect with far-off grandchildren

Keeping in touch with family

Many grandparents are intent on staying close to their grandchildren and becoming an integral part of their lives, despite their busy work schedules and long distances between them. Though technology is making communication much easier, becoming part of a grandchild's life still requires a concerted effort and close communication with the grandkids' parents.

Turn moments into memories

Nothing replaces face-to-face visits, of course, but following up can deepen the experience. For example, if the grandparents have visited their grandchildren, the grandparents can make a scrapbook of their visit together and send it to their loved ones. "Anything the grandparent can do to make the visit not just a one-time thing, but turned into memories, goes a long way," Goyer says.

Many grandparents pamper their grandchildren by buying presents, but Goyer warns that gift-giving can also be a trap. She advises grandparents to confer with the parents to make sure they are in agreement with the gifts. "What's acceptable to one parent may be too much for another," Goyer notes. Some parents try to downplay commercialism, limit their child's video games, and stress educational games or books.

While many grandparents dote on their grandchildren and try to be sensitive to their needs, grandparents are also encouraged to share part of themselves. Says Berger, "Focus on something you love and share it with your grandchildren -- a favorite hobby or avocation."

Getting involved with grandchildren also helps the grandparents. "It can provide grandparents with an important focus in their life. Connecting the child to their roots or heritage enhances the grandparents' legacy," says Lillian Carson, author of "The Essential Grandparent: A Guide to Making a Difference."

Grandparents offer a different level of acceptance than parents, who must focus on discipline. "Children benefit the most from having caring adults in their life that pay attention to them, show interest, and listen to them. These actions show the child that the child is loved and cared about. It strengthens their sense of self," Goyer says.

It's all about love!

What's the secret to how busy grandparents can stay close to grandkids who may live far from them? Berger says, "It boils down to love in the long run, doesn't it? When you love somebody, you find ways to stay in touch and communicate." Lillian Carson adds, "Grandparents showing up is most critical." And Woody Allen once said that 90 percent of success is showing up.

Grandparent Resources
The Grandparent Guide: The Definitive Guide to Coping with the Challenges of Modern Grandparenting by Arthur Kornhaber (Contemporary Books, 2002)

The Nanas and the Papas: A Boomer's Guide to Grandparenting by Kathryn and Allan Zullo (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1998)

Or, e-mail the AARP Grandparent Information Center at gic@aarp.org.

More grandparents.com:

100 Things You Can Teach Your Grandchildren
30 Essentials Every Grandparent Should Have
8 Fun Activities for After Dinner

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