Grand parenting can be one of the great joys of life. Proverbs 17:6 tells us, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents.” God has designed this special relationship to enrich the lives of grandparents and children. Although we all struggle to stay connected with loved ones during this global pandemic, staying connected to the little ones we love can be especially difficult. With social distancing, we can’t sit on the floor and play with them. We can’t push them on the swings. We can’t snuggle them in our laps and read a story over and over again. It is important to respect whatever boundaries our children are setting for their children, no matter how difficult this may be. However, there are wonderful ways to stay connected to the children we love. I’ve been blessed to have this modeled by my parents and my in-laws, as they’ve reached out to their grandsons.
One of our favorite things to do these days is talking with our boys’ grandparents over video calls. Our preschooler loves to run around the house collecting toys to show his grandparents, with great excitement. He also loves having Grandma read stories to him. One grandma I know gets a video call from her toddler grandson and his mom every day at a set time so that grandma can read stories daily. I would encourage grandparents to take initiative and establish similar patterns of connecting. The beauty of reading over video is that you can hold up the pictures for the child to see. It also works well to read a book that you both have so that the child can follow along. You could even buy a new storybook anthology, getting a copy for your house and sending another copy to your grandchildren. That way they can look through their book and pick the stories for you to read and then follow along. Zoom, Google Meet, Facebook video chat, Skype, Facetime on iPhone, and various others are good options for video calls. Of course, you can always voice chat with grandchildren over the phone. You could also read stories this way. Whether you talk by video or phone, try to schedule these times with parents in advance. Texting can be a good way to plan a time to talk that won’t conflict with your grandchildren’s schedule.
Sending videos back and forth is also a great way to go. Of course, you can talk to your grandchildren and tell them how much you love them, but you can also share other things, such as a hobby you are enjoying. Just today my in-laws sent a video of Grandpa working on a carving. Grandma asked him questions as he worked about the type of wood, what he was carving, the colors he would use, and the tools he was using. It was a brief video, but it gave a glimpse into what his grandparents are up to and my son loved it. He watched it on repeat. It’s also fun to send videos reading a grandchild’s favorite stories or of things they love that you happen to see. The other day my aunt sent a brief video of a construction site nearby and my preschooler was fascinated.
My little ones also love looking at photos sent in text messages, whether it’s a photo of a loved one doing something fun, making a funny face, or sharing something they saw that my boys are interested in. Think about your grandchildren’s interests and what photos they might enjoy. You might send photos of pets, animals you see outside, birds at your bird feeder, construction vehicles, or a project you are working on. In my experience, children enjoy silliness of all kinds. Taking pictures of yourself making funny faces or doing something ridiculous is sure to get giggles of appreciation.
Children love getting their own mail. Sending stickers or temporary tattoos and a hand-written note in an envelope is a simple way to show your grandchildren that you love them. You can even find stickers or tattoos of characters from their favorite shows, if you want something truly personal to them. Sending packages offers even more possibilities. My mother-in-law recently sent a box full of seashells, beach stones, a few little crabs, and even some seaweed carefully dried and wrapped in tissue. My preschooler absolutely loves this box of treasures. She also sent fun stamps for him to use with his ink pads. You could send little found items, like these, or you could send things like play dough, bubbles, activities booklets, craft supplies, or whatever else you think they would enjoy.
My preschooler’s favorite thing to get in the mail is books. He loves getting garage sale books that my mother-in-law finds and mails to him. He loves when she sends used books she bought him on amazon.com. And he loves getting activity books or workbooks that she finds in a store or online. She recently sent nature activity books that will be part of our homeschool preschool in the fall. Books are a wonderful way to send something enriching to your grandchildren. They won’t annoy parents by making noise or making a mess. They don’t have tons of little pieces to keep track of, the way toys sometimes do. And reading is wonderful for brain development in little ones. You don’t have to spend a lot for garage sale books or used books online, but grandchildren still love them.
One thing to keep in mind when mailing things is always to check with your grandchildren’s parents before mailing anything. I know many children who would love to receive slime, glitter, sequins, colored sand, and other messy items in the mail, but their parents, however, might not appreciate this. Parents are dealing with a lot of chaos right now. You don’t want to strain the relationship by inadvertently making this worse. So always check your list of items with the parents before sending something, even if you’re sure it will be fine.
If your children are in agreement, it may also work to see each other from a distance. Perhaps you could set out sidewalk chalk on your driveway and invite your grandchildren to come over and decorate the driveway for you. You could wave to them out the window and admire their artwork after they are packed up in the car again. My grandfather actually met his great grandson for the first time through a car window. We had packed up the whole family to do a no-contact drop off of groceries for him. We couldn’t hear each other through the window, and it wasn’t as good as holding the baby, certainly, but it was better than pictures alone.
However you connect with your grandchildren during this time of social distance, I pray that your relationships with them would be able to grow. It can be challenging to stay in touch, but with some creativity and good communication with your child and child-in-law, you can still grow the relationship with your grandchildren. May God bless you in each of your family relationships.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster