February 11, 2010

BRIDGING THE DISTANCE: Using New and Old Technologies

One of the hardest parts of great/grandparenting is not being able to physically see, hug, cuddle and/or be present for a school production…in other words, you don’t live near your family.

For some, this is an advantage, while for others, it’s sad and difficult. But, in order to make the best of it, we’ve put together a few ideas that might work for you. As has become our mantra, moderation is the key to success. You don’t want to alienate the parents with a deluge of things that THEY have to supervise or have to be available to make happen.

Even before there were computers and high tech gadgets, there was sky-writing for the rich and adventurous, and the United States Post Office, cassette tapes and telephones for the rest of us.

Write a Card or Letter
Tune in on what’s of interest and pertinent to the child. Make the correspondence short and fun. You can even paste in a photo, or picture from a magazine. Insert a “self addressed stamped envelope” and ask for a letter in return, if the child can write, or if not, ask them to draw you a picture, add some stickers and then take it to the postbox to send back to you.

Send Voice Recordings
Assuming there’s a computer or listening device in your great/grandchild’s home, make a recording (C.D., an audio file, cassette tape, etc.) telling a story or reading from a favorite book. Try to be animated and put on your best entertainment voice. Have others join you on the recording, if they’re not too shy. If the family doesn’t have a listening gadget, perhaps you can offer to buy one for the next important gift giving celebration. DON’T buy it without asking first!

Use the Phone
Phone calls are always fun for children to receive. The catch here is to make it convenient and realistic for all involved (ex. calling at dinner time is distracting). You and the parents can decide on a schedule and it’s up to all of you to be consistent and yet flexible, if need be. Children anticipate things like this and are disappointed if the commitment isn’t met.

If one of you doesn’t have a computer, you can purchase and send a "phone calling card”, so that the great/grandchild can call YOU free of charge to them.

Use the Computer
Skype uses technology to bring people together, eyeball to eyeball, at no online or phone cost to the users (you can call ANYWHERE in the world free). If you have a computer with a camera and/or microphone, and the parents have the same, you can download Skype (http://www.official-down.com/skypes.php) and talk in real time. If you both have webcams, you can also see each other when talking. Webcams are not terribly expensive, and most come with microphones built in, so it’s not a huge investment to be able to talk “live” to your great/grandchildren. They’ll love seeing you and of course, you’ll love seeing them!

You can also make and send video files over the internet (if you know how to do it) or use a camera to make a video, copy it to a CD and send it in the mail.

Also, be sure to send photos via email that you think the children will enjoy seeing, and ask them to send some to you.

The possibilities are endless…all you need is some patience, some technical know how, and voila. If you’re not too sure of the technologies, you might ask one of your kids, one of your older great/grandchildren or a friend to show you the basics.

Make a Memory Book
We’re all delighted when our great/grandchildren give or send us drawings, photos, letters, etc. If you like doing this kind of thing, keep all of the goodies in a safe place and then create a “memory book” or “album” of things you’re received over the year. Give it to your great/grandchildren for a special birthday or each New Year. Add narratives to make it more personal.

Poetry Galore
We all have favorite poems. Unfortunately, most children don’t get to hear or read a lot of poetry today, for many reasons. There are some wonderful books of poetry that you can use to: make a book, add some lines to a letter or card, or record for the child to hear. Here are a couple of our favorite collections:

The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - by Caroline Kennedy

20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury – Compiled by Jack Prelutsky

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices – by Paul Fleischman

Where the Sidewalk Ends – by Shel Silverstein

This is an ongoing process that will keep you connected to your family. The technologies will keep changing, so use the gadgets that you like, and STAY IN TOUCH!!!

1 comment:

  1. These are great ideas for anyone who wants to stay close to a child who is far away, even an aunt. Thanks for a great post!