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Long distance Grandparenting

(48 Posts)
Willow500 Tue 01-Dec-15 17:26:34

Are there other grandparents out there who have grandchildren in far flung countries as well as in their own? We have 2 granddaughters aged 18 and 14 here who we are very close to although they left our town when they were younger so we don't get to see them so often now but the bond is still there. We now have 2 little grandsons on the other side of the world and it seems so sad that we'll never have that close connection with them. We did visit a couple of months ago when the eldest one was 2 and the youngest just 6 weeks old but of course they will never remember that and with our age and the travel costs we are not very likely to visit again soon. We love them dearly but they will not know us the same way. People say they use Skype but with the time difference of 13 hours and work patterns of both us and our son we are unable to do it on a regular basis. How do others cope?

Crow Tue 01-Dec-15 17:47:19

Hello Willow500 there are lots of us on here who have grandchildren very far away. It is hard and Skype does help but it is about sorting out a time to use Skype or FaceTime. Someone on here (sorry I can't remember their name) buys two books the same and sends one to the grandchild. A time is set then they read it all together.
Wee ones love postcards and I send them about once a month, and small gifts, but I do know that postage is expensive.
Sadly it is a fact of life that one's children fly far away. The positive fact is that we gave them the wings to do that.
I find comfort in that and as long as they are happy and healthy I find I can cope. I do cry but after I have spoken to them!!!!
I have 9 grandchildren far away, ages 2 to 25, so I do know how hard it is.

tanith Tue 01-Dec-15 17:48:58

I have a grandson who lives abroad its only Europe but even though I try to visit twice a year but he's already 2+ and each time I visit he doesn't remember me we tried skype but he really didn't want to sit still more than a couple of seconds. I know it will get better as he ages but I know we will never have the bond together that I have with the other 7 grandchildren who live close by and with whom I've had lots of contact with even though they are now grown up we all have a lovely relationships which is never going to happen with this beautiful boy who lives abroad.

He has a lovely relationship with his 'other' family and I am glad that the other grandparents are really close by and are going to be there for him through thick and thin they are lovely people but it doesn't help me cope I often sit when I'm alone and have a little weep about it all.. sorry I'm not much help I'm afraid.

TriciaF Tue 01-Dec-15 19:33:01

Our two sons and their families live far away, one in Kuwait and one in India. I visit when I can, but doubt if I'll get back to India again.
As Crow says, we give them wings to fly.
I write, email and Skype, but know we can never be proper grandparents. Unlike my own, who both lived in the same town as us. We even lived with Mum's parents for a few years, so that Gran had a big influence on me.
And husband's paternal GPs lived with them.
Our girls are in England and we see them often, but not just around the corner. One has no children, and the other a girl now 20.

Willow500 Tue 01-Dec-15 19:38:09

I'm glad I'm not alone - I realised that of course and that we are luckier than those people years ago who had no contact at all with their families who emigrated abroad but it does upset me if I think about it too hard. I agree wholeheartedly that the important thing is that they are all happy and hard as it was to say goodbye when my son and dil emigrated while she was pregnant we knew they were doing the right thing. They are surrounded by her family and our grandsons see their other grandparents almost every day, have small cousins nearby and will have a much better life than they would have here. They didn't live near us anyway so we didn't see them that often but then they didn't have children then :-) I think the plan to buy a book each year is a great one - when they get a little older we'll hopefully be able to read them to them.

Coolgran65 Tue 01-Dec-15 20:12:37

I 've a dgs who is very far away, the time difference is 8 hours. We visited 18 months ago when dgs was 8 months. Hopefully we can afford it again next year.

Regarding Skype, I agree that a child can't sit still....this is what we do.... ds sets his monitor/screen on the table on one side of their living room. He seats himself on the sofa on the far side of the room. Dgs plays about with his toys, comes over to see the folks (us) on the screen, brings a toy to show us.
We chat with ds, speak to dgs, and just let dgs play away with toys and stuff around the room. He climbs on the sofa and jumps off. We ask him to get his ball and show it to us. Ds throws a paper aeroplane in the direction of the screen where ds then notices us again and maybe brings us a car, or gets his toy horse to clip clop in front of the screen.

One of our better ideas was a Peppa Pig puppet which I use to entertain him. And a realistic duck from a garden centre that makes a big noisy quack....And grabs his attention.
We might Skype for 15 minutes or an hour...... Just play it by ear.

I think it's important to actually schedule the Skype I.e. during the week maybe arrange for our Sunday 8pm, his 12 noon, that's just an example, we try tokeep it random so that no one is feeling tied....Just when it suits.

Sometimes if I'm awake during the night I give a occasional random quick phone call...their evening time, but I'm quite quick to say...was thinking of you and just wanted to say hi....leaving it open for ds to say....Great Ma..but I've only got about 10 minutes, on the other hand we might be chatting for an hour. I always leave it open and don't be upset if it's not convenient for a long yarn.

I do my best not to be needy.
Because of the time difference I make any awkward unsocial timings be on my side, they have work and child a whilst I am retired.

It's the best of the situation. But they never know how my heart aches when there is a lovely family gathering here with a few empty seats.

Coolgran65 Tue 01-Dec-15 20:13:04

So sorry for that long post.

Willow500 Tue 01-Dec-15 22:04:30

Coolgran65 On the odd occasions we do Skype the little one has played in the background once he's got bored looking at us on the screen but your idea of a puppet is quite a good one - my other half is very good at being 2 years old himself so I'm sure he can work something out with that :-) We find it difficult to find a suitable time - our late Sat evening and their early Sunday morning is the only window we have as my son works very long hours some of which are unsociable so it's hard. Having a new baby also means they are not getting much sleep so any time they do have is used to catch up. As time goes on I'm sure (hope) it will get easier. I've never tried to ring them - I don't even have their landline number but sometimes I will get a WhatsApp message with a photo which is good. You are right though - we try very hard to be bright and cheery when we do communicate but getting together with my other son and his family tugs at the heart knowing they can't join us.

Gillnick Wed 02-Dec-15 09:56:18

Hi, so pleased to have found this forum. My husband and I just struggling to come to terms with our son's imminent move to Dubai with our two young grandsons. They have always lived about 1 hour from us and we have looked after them very regularly. We are devastated to be loosing them, but trying to keep focussed on the excitement for them. We have two other sons - one in Oz and one in Texas with his wife and our 1 year old granddaughter. Trying hard to be positive about the independence we have given them all, and the visits we are fortunate to be able to have to see them.
Any tips on managing the departure would be most welcome. So pleased to have found a forum to share experiences with others.

Willow500 Sun 06-Dec-15 20:40:16

Hi Gillnick - I can totally empathise with your situation. We found it hard enough when our eldest son moved 2 hours away with our granddaughters when they were 10 and 7 but were totally devastated when our youngest son and his wife announced they were going to NZ when they found out she was pregnant. She is from there so gone home to her family and their decision was totally the right thing to do from every perspective but that didn't make it any easier. We were never anything but positive about the situation though and they will never know the tears I/we shed the last week they spent with us before they left. As my mother in law once said to me our children are only on loan until they are old enough to fly the nest which is very true. Both of mine left home when they were very young and I realised today it is 25 years since said youngest flew the nest. As you already have other children in other countries you will know what a wrench it is. How old are you grandsons - if you've looked after them regularly you will already have established that bond with them as we did with our granddaughters so they won't forget who you are. We had son & dil come to stay the last week before their departure and took them out for days to all the places they wanted to visit and also had a family party for everyone who knew them creating happy memories and photos for us all. It helped but unfortunately that day finally came and from experience my dil would only let us drop them off at the railway station so it was a very quick parting. I don't think there are any easy answers - we just went home and I did what I always have done at times like that - gave the house a good clean :-(

jeanwalthamstow Tue 22-Dec-15 22:44:12

Dear fellow grandparents,
I enjoyed all your comments and welcome some of your ideas. My daughter [only child] has settled in NZ and expecting her first baby in May.
This leaves me with a partner [thank goodness] but no other family nearby and as I am living in London, most of my friends have moved away.
My sister, in Sheffield however has everything, daughter and new granddaughter nearby, a large circle of friends, another daughter 2 hours away. She doesn't really sympathise with my feeling and my fears of the future.
The truth is that I'm feel very envious of her and also others who have day to day contact with families.


nanamissingkids4 Sun 27-Dec-15 19:17:13

I'm happy to of found this forum! With the Christmas season it makes me sad for family back home! I have a daughter and son in law and two year old granddaughter. We moved 1000 miles from them six years ago. When she became pregnant she was put on bedrest at four months till birth! So I spent many months with her as her husband worked. I bonded withmy granddaughter before she was born! I travelled back forth and when she finally gave birthbi was there and thankfully because she almost died so I started for few months and cared for my granddaughter and our bonds grew daily! I have since been back numerous viusits for weeks and more! Each time it gets harder to leave! I saw her in early December but was hard leaving! Now my son is having baby this April and that will be hard on me! I want to move back and hubby says if we can afford to do so we will try! I want to be closer to be hands on grams! I love being a grandmother! Yes Skype is good but I can't hold my granddaughters hand and walk to the park or sit on the floor and play with her! So I understand how others feel! It's that void in the soul that is always there! So I know for me I have to be grateful which I am for the visits I can get in yearly and cherish the times I have!

GrannieBabi Fri 15-Jan-16 23:52:00

My daughter lives locally and I see her 2 children regularly, meet from school etc., and they are a big part of our lives, but my son who has two boys lives in Europe. Everything is relative - he could have gone to Australia, but it is a different relationship. I am lucky that we see my son's family regularly but when it's time to go home I manage not to show my emotion, to put on brave face for the boys. I miss them so much, but feel I should not say so or they will be more upset.

They ask 'Why can't we all live in the same country?' Now that they are older I tell them that because our times together are rationed it is more special when we do see each other. Reading the other posts I know I am more fortunate than a lot of other people and like nanmissingkids4 I am grateful for the time we do get together and have lots of happy memories.

Ros1e Fri 22-Jan-16 15:23:53

Dear grandparents

I'm new to the site and have found all your posts on long distance grandparenting reassuring, moving and uplifting

I have three little grandaughters who live the other side of the world, eleven hours ahead at the moment. I miss them dreadfully and aim to do everything I can to develop a strong bond while they are still young.

When the eldest was born 6 years ago I bought a giraffe type puppet, we call him Colin. Over the years a puppet family has grown to include a fairy, a pig and most recently by popular request a unicorn. They have developed distinctive personalities and regularly appear on skype and facetime. With so much to say when we talk, emotions and commotions can get in the way. The puppets provide an oppotunity for rituals and routines. Memorable moment of fun, they are definitely more than just puppets and always will have a place in our extended family.

obieone Fri 22-Jan-16 15:41:20

What a lovely idea Ros1e

ffinnochio Fri 22-Jan-16 16:10:37

Rose1e I've had lots of fun with hand puppets through the Internet - and have taken them with me when I've visited. It provides a good link. smile

Elrel Fri 22-Jan-16 16:45:27

Rosier do finnochio - although all my GC are in the UK we also use glove puppets and other soft toys on FaceTime, with them the conversation never flags!

Elrel Fri 22-Jan-16 16:46:18

Oops - that was 'Rosie and ...' At the beginning.

Lavande Fri 22-Jan-16 17:43:08

I suppose I am fortunate that I am only a Ryanair flight away from my 6 grandchildren aged 2 - 20 years old. I often get talking with other lone grandmothers visiting their families like me. On one flight, the subject of missing our grandchildren came up and my companion confided that 'it is something you never really get used to'. In a way that helped. It forced me to accept that I would have to deal with it and give the most I could in the way of time, thought and effort to each relationship. I saved a modest sum each month to be able to offer some financial support to my oldest grandson at University. He is now old enough to travel unaccompanied to France and I contribute to his fare. FaceTime is used regularly by all of us. Two of the children receive monthly magazines, (Junior Geographic and Kick) which forms part of their Christmas present and has been a bit hit. It is also a useful topic of conversation. Aside from that, I send postcards, letters, jokes, pictures to colour, inexpensive gifts like books or lightweight items I have knitted. I hope that helps.

Willow500 Sat 23-Jan-16 07:34:46

I'm quite enthusiastic about the puppet idea Ros1e and plan to go into town today and see what we can find and maybe try to Skype them tonight. It will have to be my husband who uses it as I've no imagination at all but he's really good at making up stories as he goes along so I'm sure it would be a great way for him to interact with our eldest grandson who is 2 then later on the baby. We had a couple of really nice Skype sessions over Christmas seeing him open his presents and my other son was also with us on Christmas Day so he and my granddaughters were able to take part. It's sad that my sons don't do this more often - it had been several months since they'd spoken for no other reason than time and effort. I worry that they will all drift apart as well sometimes especially as there is a big age difference with their children - my granddaughters are 18 & 14.

Ros1e Sat 23-Jan-16 17:08:55

Hello Lavande, your comment about talking with other lone grandparents is very much the same for me, especially on planes. I think there must be lots of us - full of excitement but aware that there are always the inevitable goodbyes. I agree, you never really get used to it. I try to think how lucky I am that at the moment I am able to have quality time, at least once a year. I love your ideas about sending past cards etc. and the magazines sound great. I will look into that. My son brought the eldest to UK last year and on her return she gave a talk to her class about her trip. One of the highlights was Sainsburys! It's the simple things in life that seem to mean a lot!

Ros1e Sat 23-Jan-16 17:49:24

Hello Willow500, I'm sure you have a great imagination. However I think I may know how you feel as I felt quite uncertain when I embarked on the puppet thing. Peepo etc worked well and the fairy puppet pretending to pass food through the screen.... from UK to Oz ( or NZ in your case)
I also have sons and although they stay in close contact I can understand your concerns. I suppose as mums we have a role to play in keeping the family together.
I sadly lost touch with my sister and often wonder if things would have been different if our mum hadn't died when we were young.
But back to the puppets - I hope it goes well.

jeanwalthamstow Tue 02-Feb-16 10:35:23

Hi All,
I recently asked about how people cope with feelings of envy/jealousy towards others with grandchildren nearby.
I have a friend who spends a great deal of time with her grandchildren and talks about it at length. I can't help feeling bad when she goes on about it.
Does anyone else get such feelings and how do you cope? Jean

Willow500 Tue 02-Feb-16 13:27:59

Ros1e We bought two puppets last week and sent picture messages saying hello from Tommy the Tiger and Brian the Lion. When we Skyped on Sat my husband put them on but I think our grandson was too hyper in the heat to take much notice although his baby brother seemed to be watching smile We'll give it another go next time too.
Jeanwalthamstow I do understand those feelings as I have a friend with 2 new grandchildren and my sister in law with one. They both childmind them and so have a lot in common to talk about including their progress and children's programmes they watch etc. when we all get together so I feel a bit left out. However I have to remember that we have been through all of it with our eldest granddaughters who are 18 and 14 and I do know that my friend in particular was very envious back then as she thought she'd never have grandchildren of her own so I try to be happy for them. It is hard though and sometimes I have to bite my tongue and not say what I feel!

Ros1e Tue 02-Feb-16 15:25:08

Hello Jean, I think I can share some of your feelings about other grand parents having lots of contact when yours are the other side of the world, or will be soon in your case. Not long till May. It's very hard but you're not alone. Lots of skyping, face time, sending little snippets of video and photos can help. Even if it's a quick glimpse try to build it in as often as you can. I've been doing it for over 6 years and focussing on as many different ways to communicate can really help to raise spirits. I have been to visit whenver possible and they all came here last year which was wonderful. Quality time rather than quantity.

Willow500. I'm sure Tommy and Brian will soon become favourite fixtures. Especially if they are always there on the screen with you. Recently a friend's dog got hold of one of the puppets and there was a thrilling story of rescue to be told at the next skype. It was worth exaggerating to keep them all interested!