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Keeping in touch with the grands

“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged…” Prov. 17:6a
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,” Prov. 13:22a

It used to be that if someone mentioned a woman’s grandchildren, she would dig in her oversized purse for a small album and show off the pictures of her precious little people. Grandfathers, too, would pull out a wallet that trailed plastic sleeves filled with photos. Nowadays we might have to wait while he or she scrolls through their phone, but grandchildren remain every bit as loved! They are wonderful! They amuse, hug, and love us and remind us of when our own kids did this or that. They are usually not ours to raise and discipline, but they are ours to love and assist.

If they don’t live nearby…

It is often the case that grandparents won’t have the joy of living in the same general area as our grandchildren. Universities, jobs, missions, and marriages may take them to another province or state or even to a faraway country, and as we saw these past few years, governmental decisions may make visits even more difficult. We can praise God that it no longer takes a month or more to contact anyone, even if they are on the other side of the world! Most of the time there can be instant communication.

We can all agree that long-distance communication pales in comparison to actually being together. Holding a child in your lap to read a story, swimming together in a pool, and hugging are all activities that require one’s presence. But when the circumstances of life insist that grandchildren are physically out of reach, there are ways to let them know that they are loved and to be a regular part of their lives. If the grandparents get it started, hopefully the grandkids will respond in kind. Here are some great ideas I’ve collected from friends and acquaintances. Some of these may suit your situation and help you nurture those long-distance relationships.

So what can grandparents and grandchildren do to be a regular part of each others’ lives?

  1. Visit as often as possible. Even a visit for a couple of days helps to build the relationship and remind them of your love. Perhaps you can transport them to visit you one or two at a time.
  2. Learn about their lives. One daughter told about how her mother-in-law talked to the kids once a week on the phone, and had a knack of asking leading questions. She knew the names of their teachers and friends, what books and games they enjoyed, and what their interests were, so she talked knowingly about those things. When she sent them cards or small gifts, they would talk about those. Even though they only saw her once a year, the kids felt like they knew her and they knew that she loved them.
  3. Write letters. Everyone loves “snail mail” that is personal. Stock up on some stickers and coloring books. With one stamp you can send a letter (remember to print if they are younger than 9 years old!) with a page of stickers and a page taken out of a coloring book. Perhaps you can write them a silly poem, or tell them an anecdote from your week, or a story about their dad or mom when they were young.
  4. Send cash or gift cards. Many gift cards (such as Walmart!) do not work across the border, and banks in the US and Canada charge fees to process a foreign check. Postage for packages anywhere can end up costing twice as much as the gift! I have had success with including a small amount of cash in a birthday card. For larger amounts, PayPal has been our best option. If they have a Wendy’s nearby, you might send them a 5-Frosties-for-$1 coupon book around Halloween. Just be sure that they can easily cash in whichever gift card you send to them.
  5. Ask grandkids to write back. Ask the kids to write back to the grandparents, even if it means having little ones dictate their words to a parent or older sibling. Writing a thank you for a gift or remembering the grandparents’ birthday is also a loving way to respond.
  6. Schedule a regular online video call. Zoom/Facetime/Facebook Messenger, etc. make it possible. Ask to speak to one child at a time. This may lessen silliness or arguments about whose turn it is. If the time zones make it difficult, try making short calls here and there rather than setting up a full appointment. Even a 5-minute call just to tell them about something that happened and ask about their day shows that you are a part of their life.
  7. Let grandkids call. Allow the kids to call the grandparents when they want to, within reason. If there’s a 3-hour time difference, Grandpa might not respond at 6 a.m. Pacific time.
  8. Read a weekly story book You can read them part of a chapter book each week. They will look forward to your next call! Go to the library to improve your collection. Record your reading of the book and send it so that their busy family can listen to it at their convenience.
  9. Do an art project together. You can do this while chatting via Facetime, Zoom, or the like, after making suitable arrangements with their parents.
  10. Sing or play a short song. Do it regularly to help the little ones recognize you.
  11. Play games together. Kids love to play Battleship over Zoom/Facetime/Facebook Messenger. Another option is Drawful, which is part of a group of online games at We had family members from 5 or 6 locations play this Pictionary-type game together.
  12. Play Marco Polo together. There’s a phone app called Marco Polo (easy instructions can be found when you Google it) where you can send a video message to them to listen to later. This could include reading a story, sharing a Bible verse or song, or even showing them how to draw or create something. They can watch it repeatedly! They can send you videos as well, sharing the songs that they learned, introducing their friends, showing off their pets or their dance steps, or hearing them tell about a funny movie that they watched.
  13. Try “Friendship Lamps.” One grandmother bought Friendship Lamps for herself and all of her grandkids. You simply plug them in and connect them to your wi-fi. Then, through the power of the internet, when one person touches their lamp, everyone else’s lamps light up with a special color that is unique to that person. So, if Grandma touches her lamp, all the grandkids’ lamps will turn orange, and they know that she is thinking of them. One grandparent declared that her grandkids love it. Ads on the internet list a “set of two” for about $150 US.


Long distance between loved ones doesn’t have to bring an end to regular communication. You can show your love, give a listening ear, make them laugh, teach them a skill, and most importantly, share the steadfast love of the LORD and ideas for employing the fruit of the Spirit in everyday life. It just takes a bit of planning and effort on the grandparent’s part to get it started.

“But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children…” Ps 103:17


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Assorted, Parenting

What my grandma taught me

My grandma died at the age of 93, more than 25 years after her Henk died. And during those years she often wondered why God hadn’t taken her too – all her children were grown up, so what did she have left to do? She hadn’t exactly forgotten about her grandchildren, but like many grandparents, she did underestimate how much she had to offer the younger generation. She didn’t understand how much her grandchildren still needed to learn from her. 60’s – Hello! Grandma was already in her 60’s when most of the grandchildren first got to know her, and the lessons began immediately. The very first lesson she taught us was that it was important to eat all the food on our plates. The second lesson? That whether we ate all the food on our plates or not, our grandma loved us. She modeled and taught us about unconditional love – the exact type of love God gives us. Parents practice this love too, but it isn’t always as clear. Parents are, after all, the ones who have to punish, and prod, while grandparents can simply adore, spoil and hug. 70’s – Learning never stops There are other lessons, too, that are best learned from a grandparent. Grandma taught us that purity can be funny – that one can get laughs without being crude or rude. She was a very elegant lady but she wanted us to know her generation had the secret to good clean fun; they knew that the very best type of humor was silly humor. So even though she had the regal bearing of a queen, she never passed up a chance to model the large fuzzy slippers she got one Christmas. And when we picked her up at her apartment she always took a moment, with a sly grin, to quickly say goodbye to her collection of stuffed animals. Even in her 70’s she had an innocent child-like sense of humor. A favorite example is of the time when she was out with one daughter and a couple of grandsons. The foursome was out walking when they came upon a set of revolving doors. Her daughter, our dear mom, went first, followed by little James. But then it was my turn… the grin on my face let my mother know in advance what her urchin child had planned. But just as she was about to give me a stern warning, in stepped grandma. The two of us, urchin child and tiny, elegant, 70-something-year-old grandma, started going round and round and round again in that revolving door until we both got so dizzy and weak from laughing we tumbled out. 80’s – She’s seen it all before By the time grandma hit her eighties, her grandchildren were just about all grownup. But she still had a lot to teach us. We were leaving our Christian schools, entering university and experiencing for the first time just how depraved the world could be. Our gentle, delicate grandma knew all about it – in her eighty years on this earth she had seen it all. One story she often told to encourage us, was about the day the Germans invaded her native land of Holland. That day she had looked up to see so many German paratroopers floating down to earth they blotted out the sky. The sight convinced her that the end had come, that the world must be over – how could it ever get worse than this? But it wasn’t the end, and though German power seemed invincible, God brought liberation. Her point was clear: don’t despair – our God can overcome any evil. 90’s – Last but not least In her nineties grandma start showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and began getting confused about what decade it was, and what country she was in. She soon lost the ability to speak English, and in her last months couldn’t walk further than a few dozen feet without huffing. Her body was gone, and her mind was failing her too. On her better days, when her mind was clear enough that she could understand what was happening to her, she got very frustrated. Once again she wanted to know, why was she still here? What did the Lord still have left for her to do? The truth was she wasn’t able to do anything for anyone anymore. But she could still be helped. This wasn’t an easy time for grandma and sometimes she vented her frustration on her children. But she loved to be helped by her grandchildren – anything we did for her would be met with a smile or a pat on the arm. She was once again teaching us about unconditional love – Christ-like love – this time, how to receive it. She responded to us, as we should respond to our giving, gracious God. Conclusion  Grandma lived to be 93, and while she sometimes thought that her job here was done long ago, her grandchildren are very grateful God gave us these many more years with her. Grandparents are such a blessing....