Try this transition activity when a lot of time has passed since seeing your grandchild
BY KERRY BYRNES
After a year when millions of grandparents have been separated from their grandchildren, many are wondering, how will they act or feel when they finally see me?
It’s emotionally tough to do all the work of staying connected from a distance, only to have your grandchildren shy away or be a little reticent when they first see you.
Of course, this is completely natural for children. My 3-year-old will sometimes hide behind my legs when he sees our good friends who live next door.
But there is something you can do to ease those first moments of the visit. It requires creating anticipation for your visit, alongside redirecting the focus from the people to an activity or game.
I call this a transition activity and it is based on some research from the parenting world about using familiar objects to bridge separation.
Members of The Long Distance Grandparent Society – my monthly membership program for grandparents to grandchildren ages 2 to 10 – have had a lot of success with this approach.
- First, pick up something small for your grandchild, such as a toy, a card game, a barbie, a truck, or a puppet for a little one. Buy 2 so you can play together. The key is to choose something you can get down on the floor or sit at the table and play together quietly when you arrive.
- Second, wrap it up or put it in a special-looking bag that stands out. Think bright pink, with lots of ribbons and stickers on it.
- Take a photo of the bag and mail the photo ahead of time or create a video showing them the bag. Let your grandchild know that when you arrive, they must remember to ask you for the bag because it has something fun for you to do together in it. Mention the special bag a few times before your visit.
- Once you arrive, have the bag in hand or easily accessible.
This takes the focus away from you – and eases any pressure your grandchildren might be feeling about how they are supposed to react to seeing you – or how they might be feeling after not having seen you for so long.
Getting down on the floor and playing quietly and softly together can really enhance those first moments you spend with them. It lets them know you are there to be with them and to play and be in their world.
This works if they are coming to visit you as well. Just have the bag set up on a table or on the floor for when they arrive. Be sure to let them know it is waiting for them beforehand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kerry Byrne, Ph.D. is a care and connections research scientist focused on helping grandparents nurture strong bonds with their grandchildren from a distance. For more ideas about how to stay connected to your grandchildren, you can sign-up for her weekly ideas and inspirations on her website: www.thelongdistancegranparent.com