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How to Keep Your Children Connected with Their Grandparents

grandparent holding baby

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

I remember my grandmother so vividly – her huge laugh and her insistence on the proper way to make a cup of tea. I also remember the lessons learned from her, and that connection has influenced my life to this day. Research in brain development shows that the interactions between children and their families build connections among neurons¹. Building positive and strong personal relationships helps to promote healthy brain development.   

My grandmother lived in England, so I did not see her often, but I still have a collection of those blue airmail letters that kept us in touch. We are more fortunate today. There are many more ways to stay connected when you live far away. 

The book Connecting Families: The Impact of New Communication Technologies on Domestic Life, edited by CarmanNeustaedter, Steve Harrison and Abigail Sellen, is about how technology has changed how families interact. The positive aspects include the ability to develop closely bonded relationships with family and friends both near and far.  

Here are a few approaches that can support your family in staying connected. The key is to do things that come naturally to all of you and are highly interesting to your children. This will help keep these virtual visits more fun and meaningful. 

Sharing routines – Spend a few minutes each day doing something fun, like a morning stretch or a few yoga poses. This could also be a time to chat about a plan for the day or eat breakfast together. Prop up the phone or tablet on the table, and share a mealtime. 

Reading a book – Your child can pick out a favorite story. Your parents can read part of the story each day for a few minutes each week, or they can read the story in one sitting. You may want to break it up for younger children. I have started to record myself reading a story, and then send the book to my greatniece in the mail. She gets a new book each month and then puts on the video and follows along as I read to her.   

Having a family contest – A lot of families have told me they love this one. Everyone gets sent a bag of things. For example, send out crayons, glue, paper and ribbons. The challenge is to make paper airplanes. The first video chat is about making the planes. The second is the virtual flying contest. It is easy to make the kits. Another idea is decorating face masks and sharing the results. 

Playing games – This can be done in several ways. Many games lend themselves to virtual visits, such as charades or board games (if all the teams and players have the same game). For example, if one player throws the dice and moves piece on the game board, the other team or player can do the same move with the opponent’s piece on the board to follow along 

Supporting schoolwork – Many parents have asked for help with this. Grandparents can help review the children’s work, teach them how to do a math problem or offer suggestions for completing the work. The children can connect with their grandparents while their parents take a break. Screensharing helps supports this because the grandparents see what the child is working on and where the child might need support. 

¹National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2007). The science of early childhood development: Closing the gap between what wknow and what wdo. Center on the Developing Child: Harvard University. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.