Wouldn’t you like to know when you’ll see your grandchildren again? Even if you live close by, seeing them regularly can be difficult — life gets in the way. Solve this problem by adding yourself to their calendar. If you see each other every month, you can create a tradition of taking your grandchild to lunch, for a stroll, to the library, or to the petting zoo. Perhaps you could finish off the day with a bath and a bedtime story.
If you’re lucky enough to see them more often than one or two times a month, become a part of the permanent schedule. You could take the baby to a weekly “Baby and Me” class. You could be the chauffeur for the older child’s dance classes or swimming lessons. You could host dinner or baby-sit every Thursday. You could assign one morning a week to the preschoolers and plan crafts projects or field trips. The possibilities are endless. After you decide what you would enjoy doing most and find out what works best for everyone, write your name on the family calendar in permanent ink.
The best advice for any grandparent is to insinuate yourself into the day-to-day life of your grandchildren, even if you live 3,000 miles away. Simply turn ordinary days into exciting events. For example, you can make the first day of school into a momentous event in your relationship. Speak with your grandchild about her first day of school weeks in advance. Count down to it, marking the days off the calendar. Send your grandchild a good luck card in the mail, then call her the night before to share her anticipation and ease her concerns. Then, after school, call to see how the big day went. When your grandchild remembers her first day of school, she’ll think of you as part of that important day.
Be careful, though: we all need to avoid putting pressure on children with our expectations of performing well. Just encourage a happy experience. Don’t highlight events that are too far in the future. Celebrating a half-birthday, the birthday of the family pet, or even the start of hockey season can bring you closer to an older child, from close or far away. Create an occasion out of thin air by setting a date during your next visit to watch soccer practice or to see a new movie. Any occasion with you will be a special one.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.