Long Distance Grandparents

Staying in touch across the miles
Irv and Dori Katz, a Cleveland couple in their 30s, knew when their son Frankie was born last year that it might be hard to keep his grandparents in the loop. Irv’s mom, Kay, lives in Maryland. Dori’s parents live in Michigan. They all try to visit as often as possible, but children change quickly, and no one wanted to miss out on Frankie’s firsts.

So the Katz family uploaded videos of little Frankie to YouTube, the popular file-sharing Web site, and now his grandparents can see him any time they want. The online films may not be as good as a real visit, but Irv Katz says, “It’s becoming a really critical part of keeping everybody informed of Frankie’s development.”

Long-distance grandparents can feel isolated from the day-to-day events of their grandchildren’s lives. Keeping in touch often — through videos, phone calls, e-mails or the good old-fashioned U.S. Postal Service — is the key to bridging the gap.

“We know that distance adversely affects family closeness, and especially the grandparent-grandchild relationship,” writes Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, founder and president of the Foundation for Grandparenting, on his Web site, www.grandparenting.org.

He believes technology is a blessing for long-distance grandparents. But even those who aren’t computer savvy can think of low-tech, creative ways to stay emotionally close, like sending hand-written notes or exchanging audio tapes through the mail.
Naomi Lieberman, who spends five months living in Florida every year, has nine grandchildren living in Cleveland. She calls home every week or so and makes sure to leave or send birthday presents for the grandchildren whose parties she will miss while she’s away. When she returns, Lieberman has a standing request from one granddaughter: a special dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.

According to Kornhaber, “Experience shows that when grandparents make the effort to love and care for grandchildren who live far away, the kids know it, and it means the world to them.
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