Families may find themselves living far apart for various reasons. Finding love may take them to a new county, as could a change in job or a desire to live on the coast or in the countryside, for example.
As a grandparent, you may really feel the distance — especially if your grandchildren are only little but modern technology is brilliant at keeping us all connected. Being a ‘virtual’ grandparent’, or a modern-day pen pal to your beloved grandchildren, means you can stay in touch and regularly be involved in their lives until the time comes to meet up in person again. You’ll remain a strong support for your children too, whether it’s for parenting advice, a sounding board, or simply because they feel connected to their lovely mum or dad.
Stannah have recommended different ways to keep in touch which, no matter where you are in the world, can make you feel like you’re together.
Have virtual face-to-face time
To help feel like you’re with your family, apps like Skype, WhatsApp (more on that below) and, if you’re an iPhone user — FaceTime, enable video calls to enjoy face-to-face conversations. Arrange a time that suits you all and log in — you can even share your mealtimes virtually, so it doesn’t take up additional time if your family are very busy. This also may be in the evenings when the grandchildren are ready for bed; you could read them a bedtime story, sing a lullaby together or share tales from your own childhood. Once they’re tucked in, you could catch up with the rest of the family over a lovely cup of tea. Just seeing them can feel so reassuring.
It can be difficult for young children to sit still and chat so find fun and inventive ways to interact with them. For example, why not suggest a memory game? All you need to do is set a tray of objects in view of the camera, then cover the lens and remove one each time, before asking them to guess which one is missing. It’s sure to keep them entertained for a little while — which mummy and daddy are likely to be grateful for — while giving you that all-important facetime. ‘Nanny’o’clock’ might just become their favourite time of the day!
See and share family updates on social media
Millions of people use social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram to message family, post photos and share updates with everyone they connect with. There’s also the option to keep your page private, so only your loved ones see it if you wish.
Seeing regular photos and videos of what your grandchildren are up to, or special milestones, such as losing their first tooth or learning to ride a bike, can really brighten your day! This can help you feel included and ensures you don’t miss out on memorable moments.
Mobile phones mean it’s easier than ever to contact our relatives anytime, anywhere. WhatsApp is a popular app for instant messaging, whether on your mobile phone, tablet or computer. Speak one-to-one with a family member, or even set up a ‘group chat’ with all your loved ones — or friendship groups — so you can check in regularly, make lovely plans for when you next meet, share stories or reminisce. A picture speaks a thousand words, so exchange photos and videos. WhatsApp video calls can also give you that much-needed facetime, so you can regularly see the lovely little faces of your grandchildren. In turn, your children will have peace of mind.
If your days are already filled with housework, sprucing up the garden and all-important ‘me time’, you might prefer to save a proper conversation (say, a phone call or Skype) for a convenient moment. In the meantime, a quick text is an easy way to keep in touch with your family and let them know you’re thinking of them
Do it the old-fashioned way
It's rare to receive a letter these days, but there’s nothing nicer (or more nostalgic), than a handwritten envelope falling through your door. Your grandchildren will appreciate the lovely gesture, so may even hold onto it for its sentimental value; you could even pop a photo or small gift in with it which might really make their day. They might also be able to get into the habit of writing back to you too! However, do keep in mind that in these current times, it might be worth asking a friendly neighbour to post your handwritten letter for you.
As ever, picking up the phone for a call is just as effective in feeling connected with family who are far away. Just hearing their voices can be comforting but can also keep your young grandchildren accustomed to the sound of your voice — no matter how many miles apart.
You don't have to be physically near to your family to feel close to them. Thanks to the technology most of us have in our homes, there are so many opportunities to stay connected and strengthen the special bond you share. The moment you do meet, it’ll feel like you’ve never been apart because — virtually — you’ve been there the whole time.