“Mamma, why do Ajji, Thaatha (grandparents) not live with us?”, piped up my 6 year old. My heart hurt…. I’ve lived away from home since I was 19, studying and working abroad. We try to go back home as often as we can (covid didn’t help!) and strive to keep the kids and grandparents close, but it simply is not the same as living with or close to them. And kids pick this up, surprisingly early.
I recently read about a study by the University of Minnesota that found that children who had more contact with their grandparents had better emotional and social well-being.
So the early childhood experts at indigrow put on their clever hats and came up with a whole bunch of good stuff for folks in the same situation.
FIRST, A LITTLE FACT
Studies have shown that the quality of interaction with grandparents is more important than the quantity of interaction when it comes to building relationships.
Yay! This means that it is more important to have shorter meaningful interactions like sharing stories and memories or doing virtual activities together even if it is less often, than to have longer superficial interactions with grandparents. So, that’s good news.
SECOND, HAVE A CONVERSATION
- ‘How do you feel about living so far away from Ajji/Tata?’ This will help you get a sense of their perspective and what they are comfortable talking about.
- ‘When we see the same people everyday, it’s easier to talk to them. They know things about you. Like I know who your friends are. But when people live far away, it’s harder to tell them everything in your life.’ Start with simple concepts like the difference between near and far, and then gradually introduce more complex ideas like the importance of family and relationships.
- ‘How do you think we can stay in touch with Ajji/ Tata?’ What would you like to do?’ Let them have a say in how they would like to stay connected with their grandparents.
- “Isn’t it amazing that we learn so much about India from Ajji/Tata?” Focus on the positive aspects of staying in touch with grandparents rather than making it an obligation or a responsibility.
Here is a little poem you can use:
"Our grandparents' hugs might be miles away.. But their love reaches us everyday!! With letters, calls, and video chat, We stay in touch, just like that!"
THIRD, FOLLOW THESE TOP TIPS:
Send letters or cards. Go old school. Sending letters or cards is a classic way to stay connected with grandparents who live far away. It allows your little one to write/ draw and express themselves, and it gives their grandparents something to hold onto and cherish.
There is no such thing as too many photos. Sending photos is a great way to share your little one's life with their grandparents. You can send photos of your little one’s activities, their friends, or even just their everyday life.
Celebrate special occasions on video together. Even if you can't be together for every special occasion, try to celebrate the first day of school, or a concert, or an award
Set up once a week story sessions on video chat. Grandparents have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and they can share this with your little one through stories and traditions. This will help your little one learn about their family history and culture, and it will also help them bond with their grandparents.
I also realized that my little ones didn't need my parents to be in the same house to play together. Here are a few games that work for us on video chat.
I Spy: This is a classic game that is easy to play over video chat. One person chooses an object in the room and the other person tries to guess what it is by asking clues. You can even add a cultural twist to it. My mom was in the kitchen and her object for Neil to spot was a ‘pressure cooker’.
20 Questions: A game that is perfect for all ages. One person thinks of an object, and the other person tries to guess what it is by asking yes or no questions. In this one, Neil made his grandad guess which his favorite stuffed animal was.
Simon Says: A language game that is perfect for getting everyone moving and the perfect way to introduce your little one’s heritage language to them. The person who is "Simon" gives instructions, and the other players have to follow them. We love playing this in Kannada.. It really helps his language skills.
Tips To Play
- Keep it super simple. The games should be easy to understand and play, even for young children.
- Use props. Props can help make the games more fun and engaging. For example, you could use a stuffed animal for charades or a deck of cards for Pictionary.
- Take deep breaths. It may take some time for both parties to get used to playing games over video chat. I had to be patient and understanding with both parties before we started to have fun!
Click here for our culture inspired books and games which are guaranteed to help nurture the grandparent - grandkid bond.
Follow here for 1 min reels on more conversations like this
Peek here for books, games, playkits, songs and more...
Busy Bees @indigrowkids