I never realized how important grandparents are for kids until I saw how much my twin girls love theirs.
I was lucky. I grew up having both sets of grandparents close by. Weekend visits were the norm, and I loved my grandparents dearly. I never thought of what it would be like to not have them around because they were such a big part of my life.
It's different for my girls. We don't live close to any of their grandparents—one set is 350 miles away, and the other is 3,500 miles away. Even though our twins can't see their grandparents every day or even every weekend, my husband, Noel, and I talk to the girls about their family members often and try to make visits positive and memorable experiences.
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Noel and I have found creative ways to make the twins' grandparents and other family members part of their daily lives. Here are some of the things we do:
- We quiz the girls on their genealogy: Who is dad's mom? Who is mommy's dad? Where are they? What are the names of your cousins?
- We look at family photo albums together often and quiz the twins about who's who.
- We have pictures of family around the house, and I created a picture board in the girls' room where we put pictures of their closest relatives. We switch the photos every few months to keep things interesting.
- We talk with relatives on Skype as often as possible, the girls' moods permitting.
For their part, the girls' grandparents send them cards for all occasions to stay present in the kids' minds.
When grandparents (or other relatives) come to visit, it's a good idea to prepare your kids several days in advance so that they get excited. Tell them "So-and-so is coming in a few days" or say "Guess who is coming tomorrow to see us?" That way, the kids know what to expect once the day comes.
Grandparents and relatives in general have to earn the kids' love. They shouldn't expect that the kids are going to love them instantly; you might want to give grandparents a fair warning about this before they arrive.
It's great if grandparents can bring a little gift for the kids. It doesn't have to be anything expensive, and you can advise them on what the kids are into at the moment.
At the beginning of the visit, the kids will usually need some space. Little by little, they will get closer to their grandparents, begin to trust them, and let them be the loving grandparents they want to be.
Later during the visit, let the kids know that their grandparents are going to leave at a certain time. Explain clearly that they have their own house elsewhere that they have to take care of. This is important so that the kids don't think the relatives are leaving because of something to do with them.
Finally, encourage the kids to be respectful toward their grandparents, regardless of what your relationship is with them. Kids don't need to get involved in family feuds; this will only affect them negatively and forever.
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