How to plan for a glorious grandparent journey
Have you ever planned a vacation?
Whether you are the type of person who likes to map out your days in detail, or prefer a loose itinerary with plenty of room for improvisation, you still need to decide a couple of things in advance: where you are going and how you are going to get there. Without those crucial bits of planning, you run the risk of never getting anywhere worthwhile.
Your journey as a grandparent is no different. Sure, you can just ride along and see where it takes you, but if you truly want to foster a strong, lasting bond with your grandchildren, it takes planning and preparation. Neither of these things is hard, especially when the result is so rewarding.
What does planning for your grandparent journey look like? It starts with a vision statement. This affirmation should describe how you hope to impact your grandchildren and family. Think of it as a way to write out your goals and hopes for the kind of grandparent you want to be. The business world has some guidelines about the proper form and wording, (one of my communications clients spent weeks fighting amongst themselves over whether or not a vision statement had to start with the word “to”), but your grandparent vision statement can take any form that feels right to you. Aim for short, simple, and specific, but don’t get bogged down trying to make it beautiful.
These books weren’t what I was looking for, but YMMV.
My goal in reviewing books about grandparenting is to share the books I find most helpful. There are a lot of grandparenting books out there, and some are better than others. When I find one I love, I review it promptly so you’ll know it’s worth reading. (Check those out here.) But I read many that I don’t recommend, and I generally don’t review those. I realize, though, that what doesn’t seem useful to me might be exactly what one of you is looking for, so here is a roundup of some of the books for and about grandparents that haven’t made the cut this year.
Family traditions are important--and can teach your grandchildren valuable lessons.
When our children were small, we saved our spare change all year long in a special jar. Every December, we’d count and roll the coins, then take the kids to the toy store. There, they’d each get to choose what to buy with their share of the money we’d collected. Their decisions were never easy—they each thought long and hard about what they might want if they only got one toy for Christmas.
After everyone had figured out how to spend their allotment, we’d take our toys to the checkout stand. Every year, a surprised cashier always happily took our payment despite it being entirely in change.
The final step was letting each child put the new toys they had selected in the box for Toys for Tots. Granted, the year my youngest was not quite two, she had to be coerced to give up the baby doll she had chosen! I still have a very clear mental image of the longing look on her face as we walked away from the donation box.
Why reading to babies is so important
Babies love books. They love the chance to snuggle in your arms and hear your voice as you read. What’s more, reading helps them learn language—and more.
Babies are hungry for the information in the pictures, and the sound of the words. While their language and communication skills are growing and they are learning about the world, you are strengthening your bond with them. Everyone wins, especially if the books are chosen carefully.
Not every board book is a quality book for babies. It takes more than printing a children's book on thick cardboard to be appropriate for these new learners. The words and pictures need to be geared towards their developmental stage. Language should be composed of simple words and concepts: Rhymes, repetition and short sentences all capture a baby’s attention. Bright, colorful pictures will capture their gaze. They love both familiar subjects, like the babies in Gyo Fujikawa’s Babies, and ones they haven’t yet met—like the zoo animals in Goodnight Gorilla.
It’s also important for it to be a book that adults like to read, because babies prefer to hear the same story over, and over, and over again. Choose wisely! Here are some both babies and adults we know have enjoyed. If you aren't familiar with them all, check them out and let us know which ones you'll be adding to your grandbaby's collection!
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Books are a powerful way to build bonds, but there's more to it than just sharing your favorites.
Reading is one of the main ways I connect with my grandchildren. They sit enthralled through as many stories as I’m willing to read. As someone who loves books unreservedly, I’m usually good for at least three or four a day via FaceTime, or more if we are together. We’ve got a pretty extensive library at home, which keeps things fresh. (Not that it matters—I could read the same book 10 times over and the two-year-old would still say, “Read it again!” when I was through.)
Lately, I’ve been choosing the books more thoughtfully. Instead of just choosing a few favorites, I find three or four with a common element, and ask the four-year-old to guess what that element is. One day I read Big Dog and Little Dog Going for a Walk followed by McDuff and the Baby. My grandson quickly guessed that the theme of the day was dogs. I pushed him a little further by asking him what he thought I might read next. He thought a moment and then shouted “Go Dog Go!” He was right. Another day it was Green Eggs and Ham followed by I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie. This was a little more abstract, but he still guessed correctly that we were reading books about eating. We followed up with The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza.
I love this opportunity to use books to help them develop early critical thinking skills and to learn to make connections. As they get older, books will be a bridge for far more. Through the books we read, we can share our values, teach them about the culture of their ancestors and introduce them to new interests. By engaging our grandchildren through reading, we can spark their curiosity and learn more about each other. Along the way, we are deepening the bonds we have with them. Reading is a powerful way to connect.
If you believe in that power, I’m excited to share a new resource with you, Reading for Connection. This inexpensive eBook will be filled with ideas for how to engage children of all ages through reading, activities for both in-person and virtual story dates, recommended book lists and so much more. It will be available soon in collaboration with The Long Distance Grandparent, and we can’t wait to get it in your hands! Join the waiting list now so you’ll know as soon as it is published.
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Talk to Santa: A Virtual Santa Visit for 2020
Here’s another thing that will be different during Covid holidays: no visits to sit on Santa’s lap.
Luckily, there’s a fabulous option for families: virtual Santa visits. Family and friends from up to four locations anywhere in the world can join you and Santa for a live video call. Especially for long-distance grandparents, this is one quarantine consequence that may become a new holiday tradition!
Talk to Santa has been offering Santa visits online since 2014, and they offer the best option for Santa visits during Covid. Because I believe it’s a great gift from grandparents to the whole family, I’ve partnered with them to offer virtual Santa visits to your home. Not sure you can coordinate a virtual Santa visit with your grandchildren? You can also order a personalized recorded Santa video for your family. Use code MORETHANGRAND to save 10% on your entire order.
If you are looking for Santa visit ideas in 2020, Talk to Santa is your answer! Visit their website and book an online visit with Santa for your grandkids today.
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Show your family how important they are
Drive-by baby showers. Virtual Passover Seders. Birthday parades. Halloween scavenger hunts.
We’ve gotten creative about celebrating holidays safely this year. But our biggest holiday challenges lie ahead, and it’s time for grandparents to make a plan for them.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hannukah celebrations center on the time we spend with the people we care most about. They are important holidays for making memories and sharing traditions. If you’ve always gathered for Christmas dinner at Grandma’s house, it’s hard to imagine the holiday meal anywhere else, or without everyone at the table.
Like most military families, my family and I have had our fair share of holidays far from extended family. I’ve had Christmas dinners on an airplane, in a Chinese restaurant in Rome, and with only a sick child as my companion. These years stand out not because they were sad or lonely meals, but because we found ways to celebrate even when we had to deviate from tradition.
This year, we all need put science over tradition, adjust our expectations, and find new ways to celebrate with—or without—the ones we love.
The expectations are the biggest hurdle for many of us. The human brain is a champion of justifying what it wants to do, even if science, common sense and its best friend are telling them it’s a bad idea. So if you really want to have everyone home for Thanksgiving, you can easily convince yourself that it’s not that risky because everyone has been “really careful” and you’ll keep the can of Lysol handy.
Unfortunately, the science we’ve accumulated on Covid tells us there is no way to share a meal inside safely, so if anyone is carrying the virus, everyone is at risk. If we truly feel that nothing is more important than our families, then we need to do everything we can to keep them safe. It’s up to us as grandparents to safeguard the health of ourselves, our parents, our children and our grandchildren. And this year, for many of us, that means not gathering them around our table.
Now is the time to talk to your families. If you are lucky enough to already be in a bubble with your family, keep your celebrations to just that bubble. Let other family members know that you won’t be visiting, and that you realize it’s safer if they celebrate without you. Share your recipes, share your memories, share what you are thankful for—but don’t risk sharing this virus.
A roaring good time for your grandchildren
For parents with small children, Covid-19 has made life both harder and easier. Gone are the pressures of playdates and scheduling naps around outings. But for many, those have been replaced by long, lonely days at home. Mom and Dad are frazzled, the kids have cabin fever, and everyone is in need of a break from the monotony.
One of the ways I’ve tried to make things a little easier for my family is with “virtual field trips”. The trip to the art museum and the virtual summer vacation were both a big hit, so this time I sent them on a virtual trip to the zoo.
Once again, I looked for items that would do more than provide a few moments of fun and then add to the clutter. Here’s what I included:
They both got Zookeeper shirts, which quickly became a favorite piece of clothing. I got these, but there are other fun styles available.