One of the best gifts you can give your children’s grandparents is a close relationship with your kids. Spending time together creates not only a stronger relationship but also a connection to your family history. In addition, your kids will benefit from talking to an adult who loves them but isn’t entrenched in the day-to day tasks of parenting.

Here are five ways you can encourage your children to connect with their grandparents regardless of how far away or close they live.

Date night

Although babysitting grandchildren is a good way to spend time together, it’s important for children to be with their grandparents on other occasions. For grandparents who live close by, set up a regular time each week or month for your kids to spend time with them. The date can be for a few hours after school or for a sleepover on the weekend. By setting a regular schedule, such as the first Saturday of the month or every other Wednesday, this special time together is less likely to get overlooked. If your child’s grandparents live a long distance from you, try to set aside time for your children to be alone with their grandparent during visits.

Technologically speaking

If you have teenagers, think about how they communicate with friends. Encourage your child to send a text to Grandma or use instant messaging to talk to Grandpa. If necessary, show grandparents how this technology works. By using your child’s favorite technology, she will be more likely to share things in a spontaneous way and enjoy talking with her grandparents.  

For grandparents who live far away, consider setting up a webcam and downloading a free video messaging program, like Skype. Both parties will need a basic webcam that can be purchased inexpensively from a local electronics store. Many laptops also come with a built-in webcam. Your child can see and talk to Grandma on the computer screen and grandparents will enjoy being able to see children’s expressions and how much they have grown.

Long lost art of letter-writing

While technology is a wonderful tool for keeping in touch, writing letters to each other is a very personal way of communicating. While many people send e-mail regularly, handwritten letters are more likely to be saved for years to come.

Have your children and their grandparents pick out a journal together and take turns writing their thoughts in it. Encourage them to write stories about their lives, share memories of each other and ask each other questions. For long distance grandparents, take turns writing in a journal and mail it back and forth to each other. If mailing is an obstacle, have your child and his grandparents write letters to each other and store the letters in a special box.

Read between the lines

Books are a great way to connect generations, and many classics that your parents remember from their own childhoods are still loved by children today. Encourage grandparents to read aloud favorite picture books to young children. An option for grandparents who live in another town is to make a digital video recording of themselves reading a book. They can either send the file to you or put the video on a video sharing website, such as YouTube. If they are unfamiliar with the technology, set up the tools for them on your next visit. While your child is watching the video, have her follow along with her own copy of the same book. 

If your child is reading chapter books, have him ask his grandparents to read the same book that he is reading. Encourage them to talk about the book after they have all finished it. When they’re done with that, help them choose another book to read together.

Invest in shared interests

Another way for grandparents and grandchildren to connect is to share a hobby or activity. Encourage the grandparent to take an interest in your child’s hobbies and have the child teach the grandparent about things she is interested in. If a grandparent enjoys a particular hobby, such as fishing or sewing, introduce that hobby to your child. Not only is it a fun way to spend time together, but it’s also a great way to pass along family traditions and memories to the next generation. 

Another idea is for the pair to complete a project together, such as starting a garden together or a building a birdhouse. For grandparents living far away, pick a project they can do during a visit and talk about while they are apart. Encourage your child’s grandparent to pick a project that is age appropriate for your child.

As your child begins to develop a close bond with his grandparents, be sure to step back and let the relationship flourish. Be on the lookout for other bonding opportunities between the two generations. As they become closer, you will probably notice that they’ll start coming up with their own ideas for activities to share together.

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