Ways to Grandparent Older Grandchildren

by Janet Teitsort on Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This article is courtesy of Mature Living magazine.

What happened to those adorable little grandchildren that I used to shower with love? Perhaps the lyrics of "Sunrise, Sunset," from "Fiddler on the Roof," provide the answer: "Swiftly fly the years." It seems like just yesterday that my main concern was how to grandparent my long-distance toddler grandchildren. Now, they are grown and moving on to college, to careers abroad, or to military service.

How can a long-distance grandparent keep in touch with grandkids who are scattering in every direction? Here are some ideas that might be helpful. The first approach might be new to you. The second is a time-tested way you can use to express love to your older grandchildren.

Become a "Techie-grand"

If you aren't already, you definitely need to be keeping up on the latest communication technology available. Learn to instant message your college grandchildren. They'll be glad to instruct you, or you can get a young person from your church to teach you the ins and outs. You'll find instant messaging a fun, rewarding way to keep in touch. College-age grandchildren are generally in the computer lab or on their personal computers throughout the day. Also learn to send text messages on your cell phone or use a camera phone, the newest wave among the young cell phone holders. Don't be afraid to learn the latest methods to keep in touch. Data shows that learning new information keeps us young.

E-mails and cell phones work with military grandchildren, too — after they complete their basic training, that is. Many families with children and grandchildren serving overseas have found it easier to contact their loved ones through e-mail than by phone. Don't miss this opportunity to stay in touch. Your grandson or granddaughter will be blessed by a word from home, and you will be blessed by a word from them.

In addition, you can access family military Web sites for your grandchild's particular branch of the military. Just go to your favorite search engine, and type in "military families." Many sites will appear, and you will be able to find the one that is most helpful to you. You'll be amazed at the wealth of information and support you can glean from these sites.

Helpful information via the Internet is also available if you have a grandchild who is a missionary. Again, go to your favorite search engine and type in "parents of missionaries." The sites will offer tips on sending care packages and staying in touch by e-mail and the postal service. You will also be comforted to learn how other families cope with separation.

In all these things (technological advances), give thanks! The use of computers has globally shrunk the world so we can stay connected whether in the next town, the next state, or on another continent.

Prepare and Send "Boxes of Love"

Nothing inspires a grandparent, especially a grandma, like preparing a care package to send to her long-distance grandchild. Use the information you gather from the Web sites to assist you in preparing the care packages for your military and missionary grandchildren. The people who prepare these sites know what works and what doesn't.
College grandchildren enjoy receiving e-mail, but imagine their smiles when they receive a package containing homemade cookies. To minimize damage, layer cookies between sheets of paper towels until the container is full. You can purchase plastic containers, which fit perfectly in priority mailing boxes. Always send extra to be shared with friends. They'll be proud to treat everyone to Grandma's goodies.

Equip your grandchild for those times when the cafeteria is closed and the "hungries" hit by mailing a box of pre-packed, microwavable food. A large variety of delicious entrees are available at the supermarket.

The young and healthy don't always anticipate that they might need an over-the-counter answer to a middle-of-the-night medical problem, so help them out by packing a medical emergency kit. Include some of the following items: thermometer, ice pack, disposable stick-on heat pad, antihistamine, antacid, pain relievers, meds for nausea or diarrhea, daily vitamins, cold medicine, Band-Aids®, and antibiotic ointment. A stroll through the health aid section at the grocery store or pharmacy will spark additional ideas.

Military grandchildren especially need the support of their families, and nothing can take the place of Grandma's homemade goodies. Consider sending care packages of cookies to those serving within the United States as well as abroad. A word of caution: Don't send a package to your military grandchild during basic training. It will probably be confiscated.

Care packages destined for grandchildren serving in combat zones should be frequent and small. They have to carry whatever you send on their backs, so think trial-size. Also, remember that it may take two to three weeks (or longer) for the package to arrive. When in doubt, ask your grandchild what he needs. Go online to find suggestions for what to include in these packages, as well as tips on what not to send.

Missionary grandchildren love receiving care packages, too. Missionary Web sites often provide information on what to send. You can even find companies that will send cookie or birthday cake packages directly to them.

Keeping in touch with older grandchildren may be more difficult, but you can still be the grandparent you want to be by keeping up with the latest in communication technology and by finding unique ways to utilize the tried-and-true care package.

Janet Teitsort, from Westport, Ind., is the author of "Long Distance Grandma" (Howard Publishing 2005). She is the author of six books and numerous articles. She lives in Peoria, Ariz., with her husband. She enjoys writing and spending time with her grandchildren.

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