By Deborah Haddix, Crosswalk.com
Some of us have been navigating the waters of long-distance grandparenting for many years. Others, thanks to COVID-19, have more recently been plunged into its waters.
Either way, this leaves us all asking questions about how to connect with our grandchildren.
First, from a long-distance grandma who’s been at it for over fifteen years, please let me reassure you that connecting with grandchildren no matter the physical distance is possible. Yes, feeling connected to your grandchildren when you can’t simply reach out and touch them does take some work, but it is not impossible.
Consider these 4 creative ways to connect with your grandchildren during COVID-19.
1. Snail Mail
- Send handwritten letters and cards
Write your grandchildren regularly. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy letter (although those are great). A simple card inscribed with a brief note can be just as effective. In your writings be sure to let your grandchildren know how much you love them. You can also include verses of Scripture, simple prayers, and words of encouragement.
- Write a story together
It’s so much fun to see where this one leads! Do a quick Google search for “story starters” and find one you like. Write it out on paper and mail it to your grandchild with instructions to add to the story and mail it back to you. Keep the story going for as long as the two of you wish.
Story tips: Include several sheets of blank paper and a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you hope to get the story back!
- Create an add-on drawing
For younger children or those who are more inclined to art, mail an add-on drawing instead of a story. (It’s still a good idea to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)
- Mail a care package
Just like us, our grandchildren are sheltered-in-place – no school, no church, no parks, no visits to the store for something new. Add a little sunshine to their day (and the day of their parents) by mailing a box of new things to do, either for indoors or out.
If, due to sheltering-in-place, it’s too difficult for you to put a box together, consider going online and ordering a new game for the entire family to play or sending gift cards for carry-out meals.
Photo Credit: ©Unplash/Sippakorn Yamkasikorn
- Send texts
If your grandchildren are old enough to text, connect with them there. Check in on their wellbeing – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Add some pizazz to your texts with photos, emojis, and GIFs.
- Use computer networking platforms
Maybe you are familiar with platforms such as FaceTime and Zoom, and perhaps you are not. These are wonderful tools for connecting with grandchildren at a distance. Most are easy to navigate, and many are free (or offer free versions). Do a little research, find one you like, and use it regularly to talk face-to-face with your grandchildren or to read them a wonderful book.
- Help with schoolwork
Many of our grandchildren’s parents are overwhelmed with their new role as schoolteacher. Ease some of the burden by using FaceTime or Zoom to listen to reading assignments, practice math facts, or help with an area of struggle.
- Teach your grandchild "How To"
Using that same computer networking platform, have some fun teaching your grandchildren something new. Choose “demo mode” to show them how to sew a pillow or build a birdhouse. Or go with a “class participation” format and hold lessons on drawing or baking.
- Host a talent night
Select a date and time, schedule your talent night using your favorite online networking platform, and then get busy practicing. Hold your talent night all in one session or spread it over several days. You might even want to make a competition out of it.
- Conduct Interviews
Open-ended questions can provide tremendous insight. Get to know your grandchildren better by using great questions to conduct personal interviews.
Not all interviews need to look the same. Your interviews can be formal or informal, completed in one session or spread over time, done with pencil and paper via snail mail or carried out using Zoom. Furthermore, while we are all being affected by COVID-19, you might want to develop a habit of asking a question every two to three days to keep communication going.
Following is a brief list of questions to get you started. When deciding upon the number of questions to ask in a session, be sure to keep the age of your grandchild in mind.
Interview Question Starter List:
1. What is your favorite school subject?
2. What do you like to do for fun?
3. What is your favorite color?
4. What is your favorite song?
5. What item do you take with you everywhere you go?
6. What two new things would you like to learn?
7. Who is your closest friend?
8. What is your favorite Bible verse/book of the Bible?
9. Which Bible character do you find most fascinating?
10. Is there anything you would like to ask me?
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/DragonImages
3. Fun & Games
- Movie night
Choose a movie for all family members to watch in their own homes at the same time. In real time, text photos back and forth of the movie watching (including the snacks). Then after the movie set up a video call to discuss the movie itself.
- Virtual book club
Hold a book club online. Begin by selecting a great book for all club members to read independently. Then schedule weekly club meetings via your favorite video conferencing platform. During your meetings, discuss the book and share your opinions on characters, plot, and author’s technique. For some added fun, invite everyone to bring their favorite snack to the meeting.
Create an adventure based on the books by Jeff Brown. Cut out a paper doll and name it after your grandchild, Flat (fill in your grandchild’s first name). Then introduce the doll to your grandchild by mail. Along with the introduction, ask your grandchild to take photos of their adventures with Flat ________ and send them to you. For prolonged fun, your doll can be mailed back and forth.
- More fun ideas
There are many more ideas for fun and games during COVID-19. Research a topic that interests both you and your grandchild. Hold a joke-telling contest or issue a daily step-count challenge. Get online and create a personalized crossword puzzle for your grandchild to solve.
A couple more fun ideas are to use a video conferencing platform to play charades or other family games or to celebrate a silly holiday across social distancing.
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Eduardo-Braga
- Make use of available technology
There are so many tools for staying connected with our grandchildren – phone, text, social media, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom. Make use of them, especially now. Pinpoint your grandchild’s favorite technology and connect with them there. Not only can you make use of these tools for letting your grandchildren know you prayed FOR them, you can use them to pray WITH your grandchildren as well!
- Pray the alphabet
One of my favorite ways to pray is to use the alphabet as a framework. Working from A through Z, pray one specific thing for each letter. Pray for your grandchild’s struggles, age-appropriate needs, relationships, or for Godly character traits you would like to see developed in your grandchild – OR – pray specifically about their needs, fears, and growth through this pandemic.
Keep a COVID-19 prayer journal for your grandchildren. Using a blank journal, composition book, or 3-ring binder, set up your Prayer Journal – by child. For each child, create an “info” page by writing their name and birthday in an upper corner. Attach a small photo in the opposite corner. On the remainder of that page and all subsequent pages, record your grandchild’s prayer requests, praises, answers to prayer, and any other notes you like.
Helpful note: When setting up your journal, divide the number of pages in your notebook by the number of grandchildren in your family. This will help with spacing.
If you are not inclined to setting up your own journal, consider keeping a Legacy Prayer Journal while you are socially distanced from your family. As the “keeper” of the journal, use technology to elicit your grandchildren’s entries. This type of journal promotes communication, builds connection, and encourages the modeling and discussion of prayer.
- Pray Scripture
There’s nothing quite like praying Scripture. As you pray Bible verses for your grandchild, you can read a chosen portion word-for-word in a prayerful manner or insert your grandchild’s name into the passage to personalize it.
All Scripture can be “prayed.” However, here are some passages especially suited to praying for your grandchildren, along with a couple of helpful resources:
- Pray in Color
I so enjoy Praying in Color for my grandchildren, and it’s an especially effective way to connect with them during COVID-19.
For those who have never Prayed in Color for their grandchildren, this is a prayer technique that combines Sybil MacBeth’s Praying in Color with the use of prayer resource sheets. More details can be found at Praying in Color for Your Grandchildren.
Pray in Color FOR your grandchild and mail the completed prayer to them or pull up FaceTime or Zoom and Pray in Color WITH them.
The waters surely are not impossible to navigate. There are many fun and creative ways to connect with our grandchildren during COVID-19. It simply takes some time and effort – which these days, many of us have.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/TeoLazarev
Deborah Haddix is the author of Soul Nourishment: Satisfying Our Deep Longing for God. She also serves as Prayer Resources, Education, and Training Coordinator for Christian Grandparenting Network. Deborah writes, blogs, speaks, and coaches on topics related to biblical grandparenting, other life relationships, and soul care. Read the blog and find resources at her website.