How to Help Kids Bond With Their Long-Distance Grandparents

How to Help Kids Bond With Their Long-Distance Grandparents

Living hundreds of miles away from your grandparents doesn’t have to feel far away.

By: Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’m from Washington, DC, which is about a five-hour drive from where I live with my family in Fairfield, Connecticut. The distance was never a big deal until I had kids. Suddenly, when Nonno and Nonna -- that’s Italian for Grandpa and Grandma -- came to visit a couple of times a year, I had a toddler who hid his face in his hands and acted like he’d never seen them before. While this has lessened as he’s grown, seeing him recoil as if his grandparents were strangers was upsetting to them and to me -- so I became determined to change this pattern.

In the last six months, I’ve implemented three small things that have made a world of difference in the relationship between my toddler and his long-distance grandparents. In fact, when Nonno and Nonna came up for his second birthday in July, he ran to them like they were old, close friends and gave them hugs for the first time. Here’s what we started doing:

FaceTime Fridays. Last March, I launched FaceTime Fridays at the end of my toddler’s mealtime. As part of this plan, I call my parents via the video-conferencing app on my iPhone. My 2-year-old immediately clamors for my phone, squealing, “Nonno! Nonna!” Actually seeing his grandparents talking and waving and addressing him by name is a great way to remind him that they exist and love him from afar. While FaceTime isn’t the same as actual face time, it’s much better than anything previous generations had (the plain old phone).


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Special grandparent activities. As it turns out, my mom is an expert gardener -- though I lack any kind of outdoor homemaker skills. So when she offered to plant some herbs on a late spring visit, I jumped at the opportunity. When Nonna arrived with a blue fish watering can in hand, my toddler immediately got excited about doing something outside. She then proceeded to show him how to plant the different herbs, put dirt on the plants, and pat down the dirt. While the experience was a messy one, it was memorable. Now, when my son goes outside to see the garden, he says “Nonna, garden?”

Adding their photo to his bedtime book. These days, my toddler is digging the bedtime story Goodnight Moon -- he likes to point out the changing location of the little mouse on each spread. His Nonno and Nonna gave him the classic book, so I placed a photo of them in the back. Now he sees it after the last page. And every time, he points to it and says, “Nonno, Nonna!” While he hasn’t made a connection as to why their photo is in the back of that book, he does know who the subjects are in the photo -- and he gets as excited about seeing them as he does the little mouse that scurries across the pages.

If your child’s grandparents are hours away, what do you do to make them feel close?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a freelance writer and guitar teacher who lives with her husband and two young sons in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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