GRAND Magazine - Summer 2021 - 32

long distance grandparenting
Try this to kick start the smiles
A
BY KERRY BYRNES
fter a year when millions of grandparents have
been separated from their grandchildren, many
are wondering, how will they act or feel when
they finally see me?
It's emotionally tough to do all the work of staying
connected from a distance, only to have your grandchildren
shy away or be a little reticent when they first
see you.
Of course, this is completely natural for children. My
3-year-old will sometimes hide behind my legs when
he sees our good friends who live next door.
But there is something you can do to ease those
first moments of the visit. It requires creating anticipation
for your visit, alongside redirecting the focus from
the people to an activity or game.
I call this a transition activity and it is based on
some research from the parenting world about using
familiar objects to bridge separation.
Members of The Long Distance Grandparent
Society - my monthly membership program for
grandparents to grandchildren ages 2 to 10 - have
had a lot of success with this approach.
Try this transition activity when a lot of time has
passed since seeing your grandchild.First, pick up
something small for your grandchild,
such as a toy, a card game,
a Barbie, a truck, or a puppet for
a little one. Buy two so you can
play together. The key is to choose
something you can get down on
the floor or sit at the table and
play together quietly when you
arrive.
* Second, wrap it up or put it in
a special-looking bag that stands
out. Think bright pink, with lots of
ribbons and stickers on it.
* Take a photo of the bag and
mail the photo ahead of time or
create a video showing them the
32 GRAND Summer 2021
bag. Let your grandchild know that when you arrive,
they must remember to ask you for the bag because
it has something fun for you to do together in it.
Mention the special bag a few times before your visit.
* Once you arrive, have the bag in hand or easily
accessible.
This takes the focus away from you - and eases any
pressure your grandchildren might be feeling about
how they are supposed to react to seeing you - or
how they might be feeling after not having seen you
for so long.
Getting down on the floor and playing quietly and
softly together can really enhance those first moments
you spend with them. It lets them know you are there
to be with them and to play and be in their world.
This works if they are coming to visit you as well.
Just have the bag set up on a table or on the floor for
when they arrive. Be sure to let them know it is waiting
for them beforehand.
Happy Connecting!
Kerry Byrne, Ph.D. is a care and connections
research scientist focused on helping
grandparents nurture strong bonds with
their grandchildren from a distance. For
more ideas about how to stay connected to
your grandchildren, you can sign-up for her
weekly ideas and inspirations on her website:
www.thelongdistancegrandparent.com
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GRAND Magazine - Summer 2021

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