The Ultimate Guide For Grandparents Who Live Far From Their Grandkids

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When you’re a grandma, you long to be with your grandkids as much as possible, and it literally pains you when you can’t be together for long periods. While our generation was used to growing up with our grandparents nearby, times have changed, and families are spread out now more than ever. How does a grandma cope with not seeing her grandchild regularly? Is there a way to stay close even when hundreds (if not thousands) of miles separate you? I have found plenty of ways to stay close to the grandkids who live far away, so I’ve compiled this guide that I hope will help you, too!

First off: It’s important to note that you aren’t the only grandma who doesn’t live close to her grandchild(ren)!

You may feel sad and lonely with your grandchildren living so far away, and you may even feel like you’re the only grandma who has to carry this cross. Not true! In fact, according to a 2011 survey by Statista, the majority (25%) of grandparents only get to see their grandkid(s) once every few months, with 9% reporting once a month, 20% once a year, 11% less than once a year, and 2% never (22% accounted for at least once a week while another 1% didn’t know). In addition to these statistics, a 2018 AARP report shows that nearly half of all surveyed grandparents live at least 200 miles away from their grandchildren.

Ways to stay in touch with your grandkids when they live far away 

Google video chatting while on vacation
Flickr/Joe Erlewein

Facetime/Google Hangout/other video apps for your phone

If you have a smartphone, seeing your grandchild is just a few clicks away, thanks to video apps like Facetime, Google Hangout, Duo, Instagram messenger, and WhatsApp. I love video chatting with all my grandkids and have found no initial shyness around grandma when we are finally reunited, as they know me from our calls.

Skype/Zoom/other online video programs 

Don’t have a smartphone (or maybe you prefer a larger screen)? No problem, as there are plenty of free computer video messaging services, too, my favorites being Skype and Zoom! (Please note: If you are using your computer, you will need a camera and microphone. Most laptops already include both, but a desktop may require these additional tools.)

Amazon Echo 

By now, you are more than familiar with Amazon, and its AI assistant, Alexa, who can answer questions, play music, tell you the weather, and a million other things. As if this wasn’t cool enough, you can also video chat from one Alexa (formally called the Echo) device to another, with screen sizes on the Echo Show climbing to an impressive 15.6 inches.

Meta Portal 

The Meta Portal is similar to the Amazon Echo Show, only this one is made by Mark Zuckerburg. Another reason to opt for the Portal is it has a battery backup, so you can walk around the house with it while visiting with the grands. 


This one may seem obvious, but it is still worth noting, as too many people today skip phone calls in favor of texts or instant messaging. While texting is okay, phone calls are 1000x better, as you and your grandchild can hear each other’s voices and interact so much easier. 

How to build a long-distance bond 

A gift wrapped with ribbon for Jessi
Flickr/cutiepie company

Online games 

There is nothing quite as fun as playing a board game with the grandkids, but that can only be accomplished when you’re in the same room… Or can it? Enter online games like Monopoly, Game of Life, and Words with Friends, which can all be played on your phone or computer in real-time.

Here are a few of my favorite free games:

  • Houseparty
  • Yahtzee with Buddies
  • Mario Kart Tour
  • Ball Pool
  • Uno
  • Boggle with Friends
  • Pokemon Go
  • Spaceteam

You can find these games and many more by searching the App Store or Google Play on your phone or tablet.

Traditions or “dates”

Traditions are so important, and you, grandma, can be part of them whether you’re near or far! Here are a few easy long-distance traditions/dates that you can start right away (via phone or video call):

  • A once-a-week storytime 
  • Book club (for older grandkids – read the same book and then set up a time to discuss)
  • Sharing the same hobby and having weekly discussions/check-ins about it
  • Take virtual classes together to either learn something new or perfect your craft
  • Make a particular recipe simultaneously and then enjoy it together via video chat (wouldn’t this be an excellent addition to your weekly storytime?)

Send surprise “thinking of you” mail 

Whether you’re sending a letter, a card with $1 in it, or a fun package full of crafts and other goodies you found at Dollar Tree, sending “snail mail” will make your grandchild’s day and let them know you’re thinking of them! 

Do things together, even when you’re apart 

I touched on this a moment ago but plan to make a recipe together, watch the same movie and then discuss it after you’ve both seen it or go for a walk and see who can find the most treasures. While you may not be together physically, you can still share memorable experiences that will further strengthen your bond. 

Begin planning your next visit and everything you want to do together 

It’s never too early to plan your next visit, so the next time you talk to your grandchild, make a list of what you want to do, whether it be going to the park, visiting a museum, baking your famous cookies together, or all of the above. 

Be an active listener

Kids say the darndest things, but they – like us – want to be seen and heard, so whenever you do talk, give them your full attention and speak to them the same way you would speak to another adult (i.e., don’t talk over them or interrupt, respect what they have to say, don’t ridicule or talk down to them, and so on). 

Ask questions

Whenever you talk, ask your grandchild questions to keep the conversation going and to show your interest in what they are doing. If they are into Minecraft (like “mine” are, hehe), ask how you play and other follow-up questions about what they said. Is your grandchild obsessed with a specific sport/team? Asking about it is a great way to strike up a conversation! Did your grandchild go somewhere recently? Ask about what they saw, did, and what they liked best about it! Asking questions shows your grandchild your interest and gives you, grandma, even more cool points. 

Books to read (for self-help and to bide your time!) 

If you are anything like me, you turn to books when you need comfort, including those hard days when all you want is to see those grandbabies! I read these books and found them helpful, and I pray they offer you solace as well. 

Long-Distance Grandparenting: Nurturing the Faith of Your Grandchildren When You Can’t Be There in Person (Grandparenting Matters) by Wayne Rice

Long-Distance Grandparenting: Nurturing the Faith of Your Grandchildren When You Can't Be There in Person (Grandparenting Matters) by Wayne Rice

If you aren’t religious, you may want to skip this one, as it talks a lot about how to share your faith with your grandchildren even when you live far apart. In addition to building your child’s relationship with God, Long-Distance Grandparenting touches on having a close relationship with far-away grandkids via technology and other tips. 

I Love You Near and Far by Marjorie Blain Parker

I Love You Near and Far by Marjorie Blain Parker

This is a children’s book, but it is just so darn sweet, as it discusses how even though families may live miles away from one another, they still love each other and – despite the physical space – can remain close in heart. 

The Mindful Grandparent: The Art of Loving Our Children’s Children by Shirley Showalter and Marilyn McEntyre

The Mindful Grandparent: The Art of Loving Our Children's Children by Shirley Showalter and Marilyn McEntyre

Whether you are a long-distance grandma or live in the same house, The Mindful Grandparent is a must-read, as it covers everything from giving meaningful gifts to managing technology to dealing with the more challenging parts of grandparenting. 

The Power of a Praying Grandparent by Stormie Omartian

The Power of a Praying Grandparent by Stormie Omartian

This is another one for religious grandparents, but it is one that I have enjoyed, as it offers helpful insight into praying for your grandchildren and just how powerful it is! 

What Happens at Grandma’s Stays at Grandma’s: Stories That Celebrate the Joy and Chaos of Grandparenting by Lori Borgman

What Happens at Grandma's Stays at Grandma's: Stories That Celebrate the Joy and Chaos of Grandparenting by Lori Borgman

This is a fun and lighthearted read that offers tons of warm humor (and makes me even more excited for the next visit with my grandkids!).

How to make the most of your visits with grandkids 

Family photo with the grandkids

The time has finally come when you are reunited with those sweet grandbabies. Enjoy this special time! To make your visit even better, here are a few things to remember:

Unless your grandchild is hurting themselves or someone/thing else, don’t worry too much about discipline

You aren’t mom or dad, you’re the fun grandma, so leave the discipline to them! (I have seen some grandmas nit-pick over the most minor things – don’t do this! Your time together is short enough, and you don’t want to waste any of it scolding your grandchild for a minor offense.)

Put away the phone

I know you want to take all the pictures and videos and share them with your friends on social media (I know I do!), but while you’re with your grandchild, try to limit your screen time as much as possible.

Do something together 

While watching a movie or show together is fun, now is your chance to spend quality one-on-one time with your grandchild, whether reading books, playing at the park, or walking around a museum. Use this special time to make memories that the two of you will cherish forever. 

Speak to their love language

Does your grandchild feel loved through physical touch? When you are together, give them lots of hugs and back rubs. Are words of affirmation the way to their heart? Pay them tons of compliments and build them up as much as possible. If receiving gifts is your grandchild’s love language, give them a candy bar or another small but fun surprise. Love languages are a powerful thing that can build your relationship in a short time. (You can learn much more about the 5 Love Languages here!)  

There is no sugarcoating it: Living far away from your grandchildren is complex and can take a toll on your heart. I hope this guide gives you some ideas for building or maintaining your relationship with your long-distance grandchild. Remember: Even when you aren’t together, you are their special grandma, and they love you very much (and know that you love and treasure them, too). 

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