I’ve been a grandma for nineteen years and I’m proud to say I’ve built a strong bond with each of my three grandchildren. Friends comment on our closeness. I was blessed to have two wonderful role models. Both my grandmas lived until I was forty years old.
As an adult, I had a greater appreciation of both of them. The love and devotion they demonstrated for me, my brothers and my cousins set an example I wanted to emulate.
When my first grandchild was born, I was standing at the foot of my daughter’s hospital bed as that baby entered the world. I looked into her eyes and I swear she looked right back at me. It was the most miraculous moment of my life and our bond was formed.
You don’t have to be present at your grandchild’s birth to form a deep bond. The secret to forming a strong bond with your grandchild is to be intentional in your desire and fully present whenever you’re together.
Get to Know Your Grandchild
The first and most obvious step is to get to know your grandchild. You will need your grandchild’s parent’s help with this, especially if you’re a long-distance grandparent. To find the best resources for long-distance grandparents, you’ll want to join The Long Distance Grandparents Society. The founder, Kerry Byrne, has compiled a vast collection of creative ways to connect with your grandchild.
It takes time to get to know an infant so be patient and just observe as much as you can. Ask the parents what they notice about their new infant. Learn about their eating and sleeping habits. What sights and sounds do they respond to?
According to experts, a child’s personality is fully formed early in life. According to a study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, the “roots” of who we are go back to infancy and most of our strongest traits are firmly in place around first grade.
What’s Your Passion?
One of the best ways to bond is by doing something you love with your grandchild. I loved singing to my infant grandchildren as I rocked them in my arms. Our shared love of singing has continued to this day. When the two older grandchildren were little, I sang to them in the car. As they got older, we sang together. I recorded CDs for them to listen to when I wasn’t with them. Now they share their favorite playlists with me. The 19-year-old and 15-year-old are both accomplished pianists and often call to play a piece they’re working on.
On my weekly Zoom calls with my 8-year-old granddaughter, we always end our session by singing our “goodbye song.” Recently, she asked if we could have a new “goodbye song.” She made one up on the spot and now she composes new ones every week. She also writes an agenda for our calls.
Storytelling was another way I connected with my grandchildren. I honed my storytelling skills on my oldest grandchild when she was three. She stayed on the phone and listened for as long as I continued the story—often more than an hour. Her love of animals inspired my continuing series, “Juliet and Angelina: Pet Rescue Detectives.” I came up with more lost animals and creative ways to rescue them.
Reading is another shared passion with all three of my grands. Over the years, I’ve read to all of them for hours. Now my youngest reads to me at the beginning of our Zoom calls. I tell her she reads like a librarian entertaining a circle of children at story hour.
When the older two were younger, we listened to Storynory, free audio stories for kids delivered in a delightful British accent. We’ve listened to audiobooks on long car rides. When I took my oldest grandchild for a tour of their college, we listened to a mystery together and had to wait till the ride home to find out whodunit.
My 15-year-old granddaughter is passionate about sharks. I often send her articles with interesting shark facts. Last summer I took her to the University of California San Diego which has an excellent marine biology program. A friend offered to introduce her to the former director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium for an information interview.
Over the past 19 years, I have deepened the bonds with all three grandchildren. I began when they were born and have reaped the joys of those bonds every subsequent year. I pray I live as long as I can to see my grands evolve. It’s a gift both of my grandmas got to witness as well as my 100-year-old mother. I hope I’m as fortunate as them.
One final tip: 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 and the 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.