Family, Kids & Relationships

Beyond FaceTime: How To Stay Connected To Grandparents, Whether They Live Nearby or Far Away

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With so much concern placed on the elderly population during this coronavirus pandemic, families are looking for ways that kids can safely connect with Grandma and Grandpa without actually getting together. 

Keeping your physical distance is critical, but that doesn’t mean you can’t nurture the emotional connection between your little ones and their gramps. After all, staying apart and staying in touch are two very different things. It’s possible to love from afar—and even more possible to have some have fun doing it. 

Check out these creative ways that families are keeping the love flowing between their youngest and oldest generations during this time of social distancing:

Virtual video meet-ups

If you’re a working parent or you’ve been homeschooling lately, you’re probably already familiar with Zoom and Google Hangouts. They’re two of the easiest to use platforms for live video calls, and also the cheapest. Google Hangouts is free and Zoom allows you to meet for up to 40 minutes free of charge. It’s a great solution for families who don’t have iPhones and therefore can’t FaceTime. Simply chat and catch up, or try one of these creative ideas and games to spice things up!

Get your game on

If your favorite seniors are a bit tech-savvy, try connecting through an app. For example, HouseParty provides fun, free games you can play in real time while you enjoy a video group chat (note that it’s rated appropriate for ages 12 and up). Caribu, which one mom told us on Facebook is “more fun than just regular video chatting,” is great for younger kids and comes with a library of books they can read together in real time, pictures they can color in tandem and games they can play, too.

Leave a message

If your child’s grandparents live in the same town, try leaving a note or funny drawing on a front window that the other can come see, perhaps from as far as the driveway. If they live close enough, change out what you post every day or every couple of days. You can stick to a theme or make your messages random—either way, the curiosity and excitement leading up to each reveal will keep everybody smiling, which is the same thing as hugging, if you think about it, but it doesn’t require touching. 

Of course, you could always just drive by with the car windows down, play fun music, and wave like mad while yelling, “Love you, Gramps!” and we’re pretty sure no one would complain right now. 

Become pen pals

Another great antidote to this sudden separation: Go retro and become good old-fashioned pen pals! Sending and receiving mail is still considered safe, but whether your child writes an actual letter—you knew that penmanship class would come in handy!—an email, or they simply draw pictures back and forth, this is perfect for families with kids of various ages.

Got a big family? One mom told us her big brood set up a calendar so that each aunt, uncle, and cousin sends a card or picture each day to their grandmother in a nursing home. Word is her face lights up each time the mail arrives.

Share a story

If your family is full of good storytellers, try writing a story together. Using email, a google doc, or snail mail, have your child begin a story, complete with settings and characters, then send it to Nana and Pop to keep it going. Each side can write a few paragraphs or draw a few pictures to move the forward before sending it back to the other storyteller for the next ”chapter.” At the end, you’ll have a story to treasure for years to come. 

Just think how much fun it will be to read it aloud at Thanksgiving—or in 20 years!

Share a hobby

For one little girl who misses her regular nature walks with her forest-loving Grandpa, the two started a unique “nature club.” Here’s how it works: They each take separate walks when they can, snap pictures of what they find, or bring home unique items, like flowers or rocks, then they go over their discoveries together on via phone or video call. If all else fails they can always just text or email each other the pictures.

This could work for all sorts of favorite shared activities. If your son and Grandma both love crafting, they can share the projects they make each week. The possibilities are endless!

Send a hug

Perhaps our favorite idea of all: Paper hugs!

Who wouldn’t want to receive a real hug in the mail? Just measure everyone’s wing span (from wrist to wrist, with arms open wide), then cut a long piece of paper to size. If you don’t have one long piece of paper, you can tape or glue several pieces together end to end. Next, trace and cut out hands from paper and tape or glue them to each end of the long piece. Tell the grandparents to wrap it around their necks for a paper hug that’s almost as sweet as the real thing.

The former Content Director at Parenting, and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.