Childwise: Staying Connected with your Grandchildren from Afar

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Childwise is a medical advice column for parents of children ages birth to 21. 

By Kathleen Ganster

You are here, but your grandchildren are located in another city, or worse, another state maybe even another country.

So how do you keep in touch? How can you be an active part of your grandchildren’s lives when they live far away?

Sandy Rihs of Sewickley has a 4-year-old grandson who lives in New Jersey and two granddaughters, 4 and 8 years of age in Virginia. Despite the distance, it is important for her to be part of their lives and them, part of hers.

“It is really for me, to be honest, I need to feel close to them,” she said.

She remains “close” through a number of methods – some of them “old school” and some using newer methods such as Social Media and Skype.

“We don’t use Skype as much as other things. The 4-year-old boy moves around too much,” she laughed.

Rihs said she and her husband talk to the children by telephone several times a week. While it is hard to nail down Aaron, that active grandson, to sitting still for Skype, he is “very chatty” on the phone.

The girls like to chat as well, with Abby, the 8-year-old, telling her grandmother about books reports and other things that happen in school. Madison, the 4-year-old, doesn’t talk on the phone as much, but that will probably change soon, Rihs hopes.

Rihs also likes to send the children cards, including lots of photos of things that they have done together including family vacations.

“We were all in Hershey together, so I took photos and will make cards and scrapbooks for them,” she said.

The entire family also took a beach vacation at the end of August and again, she made scrapbooks for the children with lots of photos of them together.

“That way, they can see me,” she said.

When the little one looked at one of the photos, she told her grandmother, “I ‘member that.”

The Rihs’ also visit both families as much as they can and they have the children come visit and stay with them. Rihs and her husband were preparing to go to New Jersey to visit Aaron and his family, and then were bringing the little guy back to spend a week with them when we talked.

“It’s a long trip – six-and-a-half hours – so it will be interesting, but we should have a good time,” she said.

They try to visit every “couple of months or so,” she said.

Rihs doesn’t use Facebook yet to communicate with her grandchildren, but she follows her daughter who often posts photos of Aaron.

“She posted a lot of photos of his birthday and that was good,” she said, “I enjoy seeing them and she posts them pretty fast, so I don’t have to wait.”

She also uses email with her own children to follow the grandchildren.

“My own parents lived five minutes away and my in-laws lived five minutes from us. I don’t have that, so I really need to fill that hole by other methods to keep in touch,” she said.

Rihs said she thinks the contact is important for all of them.

“I think they need that connection too,” she said.

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