The grandparent-grandchild bond is “a vital connection,” says Arthur Kornhaber, M.D., founder and president of The Foundation for Grandparenting. “The bond between grandparents and grandchildren is second only to the parent-child bond. Grandparents and grandkids profoundly affect one another – just because they exist!” He stresses that however this bond is “different from the connection between parents and children. There’s not as much psychological baggage attached. This bond is probably the most simple form of love that exists.”
But simple doesn’t always mean easy. To maintain the connection, particularly if parents are overcoming obstacles like long distances or fairy-tale expectations, often takes effort.
Maintaining a Close Grandparent-Grandchild Relationship
This practical advice comes from Susan Bosak, author of How to Build the Grandma Connection.
There doesn’t have to be a special event to give grandparents and kids one-on-one time together. Time can be spent in the kitchen, for example, where an activity like preparing a family recipe will help the conversation flow more freely. Grandparents can also read to children, even after they get older, particularly books the parents read as children. “Parents often don’t have as much time as they’d like to read to children,” Bosak notes. “Grandparents can fill this void and make a huge contribution to their grandchild’s education.”
For long-distance grandparents, frequent calls are a must. “At least once a week,” Bosak advises. “Even a baby can listen to talking or singing over the phone.” And parents can play audiotapes or videos so that the child becomes familiar with each grandparent’s voice and face. Place photographs in the child’s room. “Every night, before bed, go over to ‘say goodnight to Grandma,’” Bosak suggests. “This communicates that Grandma is important.”
Make sure children write their “thank-you” notes. This is a big complaint from grandparents, according to Bosak. “They don’t know whether a child has received a gift, let alone whether they like it.” Simple acknowledgment of a gift also creates dialogue, lets grandparents know more about the child. It also sets up a pattern of regular written communication, whether by mail or e-mail, and may encourage grandparents to send small, inexpensive surprises to older children. “These surprise gifts say, ‘I’m thinking about you’ and go a long way,” the author notes.
Consider starting a family collection. “This gives you something you can add to over time and a shared interest you can discuss and enjoy together,” Bosak points out. Or, consider putting together a family newsletter or a family Web site, which the whole family can contribute and add to, even if they’re spread across the country.
See also: Grandparenting Resources