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Senior Resources » 10 Ways to Survive Being a Long-Distance Grandparent

10 Ways to Survive Being a Long-Distance Grandparent

Grandparents hugging their grandkids.

According to AARP, over half of grandparents live more than 200 miles away from their grandchildren. Living that far away from your grandchildren can feel like torture. Worse still, visiting them might become more difficult as you age. There’s no way to sugarcoat it—being a long-distance grandparent is hard. However, there are a few ways you make it easier. Here are 10 you can try today.

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1. Schedule frequent video chats.

older adult woman using phone

During the pandemic, many people downloaded apps like Zoom, Skype, and others onto their mobile devices. While COVID restrictions have lifted in most places, you can still make the most of video chat apps! Schedule weekly video chats. Maybe daily, time and responsibilities willing. Video chats will allow you to see your grandchild and talk to them, keeping loneliness at bay until you can plan your next in-person visit.

2. Give texting or instant messaging apps a try.

Grandparent texting her grandchildren.

Whether you loathe texting or look forward to checking your texts every morning, texting is a great way to stay in touch—especially if your grandchildren are a little older. Apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp make instant messaging easy, and there’s a pretty good chance your grandkids know how to use them, too. If you’re still trying to navigate the digital world, have your grandchildren teach you a few tech tips!

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3. Start a long-distance book club, or have virtual movie nights.

older man watching tv with coffee in his hand

Even if both you and your grandchildren are busy, you can still make time for each other. And what better way to bond than reading a new book or watching your favorite film together? As a grandparent, you probably have read more books and watched more movies, so don’t be afraid to share your expertise. Maybe you can get your grandchildren hooked on the classics, or they can show you a few of their more contemporary favorites. Whatever the case, schedule a day and time—perhaps weekly or monthly—to meet. Be intentional and consistent. Nothing brings two people together quite like a good book or movie.

4. Make a good, old-fashioned phone call.

smart phone

Talking on the phone has become something of a lost art, pushed aside in favor of more instantaneous communication methods. However, there’s something to be said about actually speaking to each other that texting simply cannot replicate. If you don’t like video chatting or texting, a simple phone call is a happy medium. Talking to each other can help build rapport and strengthen those grandparent-grandchild bonds that are so special and important.

5. Send photos and other updates.

Grandparents snapping photos for their grandchildren. Grandparent.

If you can’t physically be with your grandkids for extended periods of time, you don’t have to miss out on important rites of passage! Send each other photos and other life updates—even if it’s something as simple as what you made for dinner or the show you just finished watching. After all, the little moments often bring the most happiness.

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6. Send care packages and letters.

writing smiling

Sending care packages and letters is a great way to show your grandchildren that you’re thinking of them. You can fill care packages with their favorite snacks, toys, or books. Letters can be handwritten or typed. You can write about your day, ask them questions about their life, or tell them stories about your childhood. While texts can be erased, letters often become precious keepsakes that your grandchildren can have forever.

7. Participate in their activities.

Asain grandparents and grandchild using a phone together

Even though you’re not there in person, you can still participate in your grandchildren’s activities. You can read them bedtime stories over the phone, help them with their homework, or cheer them on at their sporting events. You don’t have to be physically present to support your grandkids and be there for them!

8. Plan regular visits.

hugging grandma

While technology has made it easy to bond with people from afar, you really can’t replace in-person visits! Make sure to plan regular visits with your grandchildren, even if they’re just for a few days at a time. These visits will give you a chance to bond with your grandchildren and create lasting memories. Or plan a family vacation. That’s a surefire way to spend a lot of time together and strengthen your bond!

9. Be patient and understanding.

grandparents and granddaughter

It can take time for children to adjust to having long-distance grandparents. Be patient and understanding, and don’t take it personally if they don’t always seem interested in talking to you. Just keep trying to stay connected, and eventually, they will come to cherish your relationship.

10. Be flexible.

grandma and girl with pigtails drawing together

Life doesn’t always go as planned…and that’s perfectly okay! Be flexible and willing to go with the flow. It’s sometimes hard to coordinate schedules, especially when you live in different time zones. Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged and stop trying. When things don’t go according to plan, dust yourself off and make plans for another day. Keep reaching out to your grandkids and be the best grandparent you can be—no matter how far the distance between you.

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Looking for more?

Grandparents with grandkids on the beach.

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Originally published November 27, 2023

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