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.
How Reading Helps Children’s Development
Among the many, many children’s books in my house, there are several that have an inscription from my grandparents and a sticker from Vroman’s, the bookstore where they shopped their entire lives. There is no doubt in my mind that these gifts from my grandparents contributed to my love of reading.
My grandparents were not unique in sharing their love of books with their grandchildren: many of us do the same. And with good reason—books are an easy and meaningful way to connect generations. Whether they are asking us to read their favorite story, or we are sharing a book that their mother loved as a child, we are weaving connections to one another.
But do you know just how much sharing books with your grandchildren helps them? Reading boosts children’s development in a multitude of ways.
Grandparents Can Be the Superheroes This Halloween
What will Halloween look like for your grandchildren this year? Because of Covid, Halloween parties are out, and trick-or-treating is being discouraged in many communities. There are a lot of little ghosts and goblins that are going to be disappointed this year—unless someone comes to the rescue!
Grandparents, here’s your chance! Why not start a new family Halloween tradition with one of the following ideas?
Do you think your children are better parents than you were? Odds are, you don’t. According to a 2018 study by AARP, a startling three in four grandparents disagree with the statement, “In general, parenting today is better than it was.” They believe that discipline is worse than it used to be, and that parents today are both too lax and too overprotective.
Luckily, most grandparents respect boundaries and hold their tongue even when they disagree.
Most, but far from all. Another recent study, this time of parents, shows that disagreements about parenting choices are common.
In an August 2020 Mott Poll Report, 43% of parents report asking a grandparent to change their behavior to be consistent with the parents’ choices and rules. Although the Mott Poll Report doesn’t give specific examples of the conflicts, some of the disagreements parents have shared with me include:
“She’d never use the clothing or skincare products or diapers/wipes that we sent with her, and my daughter would get rashes.”
A couple of months ago, I joined a monthly membership for long-distance grandparents. It promised to provide me with ways to make sure I was a part of my grandchildren’s life, to help me build strong and meaningful bonds, and to make sure my grandchildren and I really knew each other. It promised to equip me with activities that would ensure I always had something to send to them, something to say to them when we talked, and something to play despite the miles between us.
It seemed like a tall promise, and my expectations weren’t high. But the price seemed like a small investment if it delivered even half of what it promised. After all, the relationship with my grandchildren is priceless, and I’d gladly pay far more than $20 a month to strengthen that bond. So I signed up.
Let me tell you, The Long Distance Grandparent Society delivered on every promise, and more. What I got:
To say that the membership materials exceeded my expectations is an understatement. But there was a bigger surprise for me.
The Long Distance Grandparent Society also offers a private Facebook group with monthly Zoom chats for its members. I typically don’t participate in groups like this, but I joined with the plan to lurk. When the first Grand Chat rolled around, I logged on knowing that the chance of my introverted self contributing to a conversation with strangers was practically nil.
What I found was not a group of strangers, but a group of people who understand what it is like to be a grandparent who cannot see their grandchildren as often as they’d like. People from all over the world who exchange ideas and offer support and encouragement. These monthly calls have quickly turned into a highlight for all of us.
As one of the members said, “None of my friends really get it. They all say, ‘At least you have FaceTime!’ They don’t seem to understand why that’s not enough to keep me from missing them.”
If you are a grandparent who is missing their grandchildren, whether it’s due to distance or Covid-19, the Long Distance Grandparent Society can help bring you closer. It can’t replace the hugs, but it can add laughter, love and meaning to your days. And it will connect you with others who know what you are going through.
The membership doors are now open for a few days: for more information, visit their page.