grandmother on phone


Do your parents live a long way from their grandchildren? We look at 10 ways to connect with long distance grandparents.

20 August 2020

However, there is no doubt starting a family on expat assignment has its challenges. Being away from the support of family and friends at this very special time in life is difficult. It is also a hard time for your parents. Becoming overseas grandparents, especially if your child is their first grandchild, can be disappointing and upsetting. 

Fortunately, in the age of instant technology, building bonds with overseas grandparents is not as difficult as it once was. It takes more work but it can be very rewarding, leaving tangible keepsakes for grandchildren to treasure throughout their lives.

We have chosen 10 ways you can help your parents and children connect even though they live many miles apart:

There is no doubt when a grandchild is first born, there is little that will replace the experience of an in person visit. The first few months are a lovely time for your parents to meet your newborn and build that initial connection. The COVID 19 pandemic has meant that in-person visits may not be possible, however, regular video calls can go some way to introducing your parents to their new grandchild.
If time zones allow, set up a weekly video call with your parents so they can see your baby become more alert as time goes on. Invest in good quality technology so your parents can see you and your new arrival clearly. 
We take so many photos today that remain on our phones or in folders on our laptops. Take some time to create a photobook of your baby and send it to your parents. It is an elegant way to tell the story of your child’s first months. A photobook is also a wonderful way for new grandparents to introduce their grandchild to their friends and neighbours. It certainly beats scrolling through photos on their smartphone! 
If time zones make live calls difficult, take advantage of voice recording on phones or in messaging apps. Encourage your parents to record their voices reading nursery rhymes, a story book or talking about their day. All these things will help your baby recognise their grandparent’s voice. 
As your baby gets older, encourage your parents to read a bedtime story to them occasionally. It is great if this can be done by live video call. If time zones do not allow a live call, have your parents record the story. For older children, buy two copies of a book and send one to your parents. So, they can read via video while your son or daughter follows along with their own copy. 
Do your parents like to knit, paint or craft? Grandparents and grandchildren can gift each other things they have made. If your parents and child share a hobby, and time zones allow, maybe they can work on a craft together? Crafting is a wonderful way for younger children to learn basic skills and for older people to maintain dexterity and rediscover their creativity. It is also a great opportunity to talk and build bonds over a shared love for an activity.
Video calls don’t have to be all conversation; take the opportunity to play a game together. There are lots of traditional mime, word or picture games like charades and Pictionary that are easy to play on a video call.  Or try apps like Caribu that allow your parents and child to read, draw, solve puzzles and even cook together while miles apart. 
If your parents struggle for things to talk about on regular calls or when making recordings for their grandchildren, provide them with a list of questions about their life to answer. Ask them about where they were born, their lives as children and the change they have seen in the world. Not only is this a valuable way for your parents to connect with your children, it is also an opportunity to gather a wonderful record of your family history.  
Introduce older children to the wonders of receiving a written letter in the post. There are benefits to both grandparent and grandchild in exchanging handwritten letters. Sitting down to write a letter takes time. Your child must formulate a narrative without editing in the way they can when using technology. It is also a chance for your children to practice their handwriting. Written letters will also create a timeless reminder of your life overseas.

In addition to the suggestions mentioned, older children and teens may enjoy working with a grandparent to build an online family tree. There are many genealogy websites that make this easy and fun. Your parents can provide their knowledge of relations and your child can work with them using online resources like census forms to trace your ancestors and find out more about the life they led.  

Although there is no denying having a child away from your parents will have its challenges there are many things you can do to help your children build a bond with their grandparents no matter where they are. 

If you are finding expat life challenging international health insurance from Allianz Care also provides access to an Expat Assistance Programme to help you with issues or concerns you may be having.