If you’re a long-distance grandparent, you know it takes time and extra effort to build a bond with your grandkids. Kerry Byrne truly understands that challenge because her two sons’ grandparents live at a distance. She founded the Long Distance Grandparent Society to help long-distance grandparents create meaningful connections and memorable moments with their grandkids. Every month she provides members with connection packs, grand chats, and guest experts.
Recently, she invited my 8-year-old granddaughter and me to be the guest experts in her Long-Distance Grandparent Society workshop. Sophia and I demonstrated some of the ways we have fun on Zoom every weekend.
My Grandma Journey
As a long-distance grandma for the past 19 years, I’ve been fortunate to build strong bonds with all three of my granddaughters. My 19-year-old and 15-year-old granddaughters (sisters) live 135 miles away. The 8-year-old lives an hour plane ride away. She and I have been meeting on Zoom every weekend for the past two years.
I LOVE being a grandma. When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to be a mom — but never dreamed I was truly meant to be a grandma. I’m happiest when I’m with my grandchildren. I was blessed with two wonderful grandmas who were in my life until I was 40. They were beautiful role models.
Knowing your strengths and tapping into them when you’re with your grandkids is the key to successfully engaging with them. I’m energetic, playful, love telling stories, singing songs, and being so super silly we all end up laughing together. I also know when to listen and ask questions. I am comfortable in the silence.
Do you know your strengths? Take a moment right now and write down your grandparent super powers.
Saturday Zoom Chats
Over the past two years, Sophia and I have developed a sweet routine on our hour-long Zoom calls. One day she made an agenda listing our activities with a little box beside each one. As we completed the activity, she checked the box. I was touched that she took ownership of the call and enjoy letting her decide how we’ll spend our time together.
Our timetable follows this same order most weeks. Children love repetition and leading the activity so I let Sophia guide us by asking: “What do you want to do next?”
Here’s our recent activity list:
Show & Tell: Sophia showed a certificate she received for the student of the month at her school. Her certificate described her as a “Super Sweet Peace Builder.” I showed her a drawing I made in my art class. I often show her photos I’ve taken on my walks or of her cousins.
Drawing Lesson: Sophia loves to draw and is an encouraging teacher. Each week she teaches me to draw flowers, rainbows, bears, cakes, and toy characters. She draws one line at a time, shows me, then I draw it and hold up my sketch pad to show her. She always says: “Perfect!”
Guess My Snack: We usually get hungry after 15 minutes and each of us gets a snack in our kitchens. Then we come back and try to guess what snack we’ve made. We give hints like color, taste, and texture.
Word Scramble: I love solving the daily Jumble puzzle in my paper. You have to unscramble a mixed-up word. For example, I’ll type in the chat “TCA” and Sophia has to unscramble the word and send back the correct spelling in the chat.
Story Time: Sophia learned to read in Kindergarten and sounds just like the librarian at story hour when she reads some of her favorites like “Pete the Cat.”
Sing a Song: Sophia loves to sing and has no trouble memorizing lyrics for long songs. For the grandparent group, she sang a song she learned at school to help us remember how to add double numbers — it’s called “It’s the Doubles.”
Movement: We always get up and move together. She likes to demo her martial arts moves or dance moves. Recently, I sang “Hoopy Birthday” to her while I twirled my hoola hoop. It’s our family birthday tradition.
Goodbye Song: Instead of just saying goodbye at the end of your call, it’s nice to end with a regular sign-off so you feel closure. I usually say, “Wow, this hour has flown by. It’s time to sing our goodbye song — Who wants to start?” Our song, “Goodbye Sophia,” is sung to the tune of “Merrily We Roll Along.”
2 Tips for Strengthening Bonds with Your Grandkids
Our grandkids grow and change with each birthday. We need to grow along with them. You can’t get attached to any stage. Recognize when you need to invent some new games and refresh your activities when they’ve outgrown them.
When my oldest granddaughter was 4, she stayed on the phone for an hour while I made up stories. That stage lasted a long time and then we outgrew the storytelling. But the foundation was built in those early years. Now she’s a college student and every day we exchange Wordle scores in a text chat.
If you want your grandchildren to remember you after you’re gone, reinforce the memories you’ve made together by reminiscing about them. Describe some details of the games you played or places you went when they were younger. If you have photos, show them. Reminiscing about fondly shared memories will help them remember you after you’re gone.