Q: How can we help my 7-month-old develop a relationship with her grandparents who live 500 miles away?
A: The birth of a grandchild is a joyous time for most grandparents (and everyone else, too!), but is sometimes tempered with a degree of sadness if they live far away—as is so common now. Just by asking this question you are taking the first step to building a strong bridge across the generations, to nurture the very special relationship that can develop between grandparent and grandchild.
It may be hard to imagine what you can do to introduce your 7-month-old to her long-distance grandparents. The truth is that with the help of a little technology, there is a lot you can do right now to help your daughter begin bonding with her Gram and Gramps right away. Here are some ideas:
- If you and your parents have high-speed Internet access, consider installing web-cams at both houses. This allows you to begin such 21st Century traditions as grandparents reading your daughter a bedtime story while she watches and listens in real time. Your parents will also be able to see your daughter achieve milestones—like pulling up and walking—with their own eyes, even though they are far away.
- Videotape your parents reading, singing, or telling a story to your daughter and burn it to a DVD. You can play it for your daughter on a regular basis so that she becomes familiar with her grandparents' faces and voices over time. And of course, don't forget to send videos of your child to your parents so they can delight in her new skills and talents.
- Record (as a digital music file) your parents telling or reading stories or singing to your daughter. Load the file(s) onto your digital music player or burn to a CD. Play your daughter's special, just-for-her CD while you're driving or use it as part of her bedtime or nap time routine.
- Make a photo book for your daughter. Gather pictures of her grandparents and other out-of-town relatives and place them in an easy-to-hold album. "Read" the book to your daughter, showing her the pictures and telling her about each person.
- Help your daughter prepare to visit your parents by asking them to send you photos of their home, the different rooms where your daughter will spend most of her time, their car, their backyard, their neighborhood park, etc. Put these in another small album and show her the photos as your prepare for your visit.
At this age, your daughter will not fully understand all that she is seeing and hearing as you use the strategies and tools above. However, the older she gets, the more familiar the voices and pictures will become. With time, she will connect the images and voices with the people themselves. And, as your daughter grows, the ways she will be able to connect with her grandparents will grow as well. Although it seems hard to believe, soon she will begin babbling with them on the phone, sending them jibberish "emails" that she happily pounds out with your help, and scribbling special letters to her Nana and Pop-pop.