Connecting Grandparents and Grandchildren

How far back would we have to go to find a time when grandparents lived down the block from their grandchildren?


For a fortunate few, that is still the case, but for others, mobility has scattered families from coast to coast, challenging grandparents to find ways to connect with their precious grandchildren.

Grandparents enjoy sending cards and letters, and today the novelty of a handwritten note is impressive. Also, no point on the globe is beyond our telephones. But many want the relationship to be much more.

Connect through your heritage
Gen Bentley of Deerfield was determined that daughters Meg and Jennie (pictured above with their Nonna) get to know her parents who lived in Trenton, New Jersey. “From birth it was important for my parents and me to establish a sense of their Italian ancestry,” she says. “So they call their grandparents nonno and nonna.”

Bentley family vacations included summer visits to Trenton. “While there, they were integrated into the culture I had grown up in … They learned Italian words and learned to cook Italian food,” she continues, adding that today both girls can make their Nonna’s delicious spaghetti sauce and meatballs.

“Throughout their development my daughters came to view them more as another set of parents than grandparents,” she adds, “a dynamic common in Italian families.”

Talk and play, by phone and in person
Three of Mary Roemer‘s 11 grandchildren live in the Boston area. The trio is collectively known as the Walsh boys and their Mimi, as Mary’s grandkids call her, frequently phone and leave “crazy messages on their answering machine if they are out and about.”

When the boys had school assignments to speak with an older person about times past, Mary’s daughter Maureen arranged for them to call her. Mary makes regular visits to see the Walsh family, which she finds often gives her more quality time with them then she has with her Illinois grandchildren. “When we host gatherings here in Deerfield with our children and grandchildren, I usually am preparing dinner, brunch, whatever,” she says. “So I’m always saying no to their request for playing a game.”

To bring all the cousins together, the Roemers gather their four children, spouses and all the grandchildren for an annual vacation at a resort in Wisconsin.

Books, Skype and iChat
Mary Gramins is on the faculty at Woodlands Academy in Lake Forest and counts among her blessings her 12 grandchildren, two of whom live in San Diego and two in New York City. The California crew has Skype, so she and her husband use that to talk to grandsons Jack, 7, and Will, 5.

“I will often buy books for them that were favorites of their dad and aunts and uncles,” she explains. “Inside the cover of the book I tape a typed note telling them about why their Daddy loved the book or some other story relating to the book. ”

During a recent family reunion in San Diego, Mary prepared a slide show of pictures of her seven children when they were small. “The slide presentation evoked pleasant memories for our kids,” she says, and added that it gave the daughters-in-law a glimpse into the youth of their spouses.