No more missed moments: 6 ways to digitally connect with the grandkids

Want to nurture your relationship with your grandkids but you're cities or oceans away? Here's how technology can keep you connected.

Keep the connection and bond with your grandchildren with these savvy - and simple - ideas from Margaret McKay to forge digital intimacy (especially if you live far away).

By Margaret McKay

Grandpa, what are postage stamps?

Do you remember when (vintage) telephones had to be connected by cords and coiled leads? 

Or when research meant a visit to the local library or the neighbour’s encyclopaedias?

While these memories are as fresh in our minds as yesterday’s crossword, to our grandkids, we may as well be talking about the ice age.

Our precious little humans have only ever known mobile phones, instant research on any topic, anywhere, at any time, and instant contact via email, message or even video call – anywhere, to anyone. This is what they know. This is their normal.

Don’t forget to read Citro’s guide to mobile phone etiquette to understand the nuances of how to communicate.

Beam me up Scotty! How to stay in the digital loop

We may not be able to teleport ourselves to Bali yet, but hey, the year has only just begun.

If we want to connect to grandkids – in the literal and emotional sense  – then we need to keep ourselves in the digital loop. Otherwise, we may well be relegated to the role of much-loved observers, when what we really need, and so do they, is to be active participants in their world of connectivity.

Read more about how to stay safe online, how facial recognition technology works and what you need to know about digital payments so you understand how to be secure and stay away from scams.   

Cobb & Co, eat your heart out: email is the go

Depending upon their age, kids will have their own email address – usually overseen by parents in the early years. A weekly news catchup from Nana and Pop is a great way to keep in touch. 

Perhaps alternate – Nanna one week, Pop, the next. Always include an open question or two. Rather than, ‘Did you have a good week?’ – to which the answer can be, ‘yes’ – ‘Tell me about the best thing you did this week, I’d like to know’, may well achieve more.

Messaging is easy and instant, but pick your time

What the younger set are really into, is messaging

Find out from their parents what message app they use – Apple iMessage, WhatsApp, or just good old SMS. It’s easier and faster than email, and therefore has the benefit of immediacy.

Messages should be short, catchy, not need a lot of brain space to process, and can still include connective content – add a couple of cute emojis. Hi sweetheart, thinking of you, how was the movie? I’m thinking of seeing it. Love, Gran XX 🥰

To avoid arrival of messages in the middle of choir practice, find out from parents the best time for contact. Oh, and check out how to avoid SMS scams.

Video calls – like phone calls, but in 3D colour

Message that little one, or depending upon age, their parent, and get them to Facetime, Skype, Zoom (or similar) with you at a convenient time. Younger kids can suffer from stage fright at first, so have some of your own chat ready, and make sure you know how to flip the camera view so you can show them your latest rose blooms, your cat’s new scratch pole, or Pa feeding the birds. Make it interesting, get them to show you things, be it the latest school project, or their fancy new sneakers. Get them to play their new piano piece. In short, make it as though you’re right there with them.

Ask them to wiki everything your way - they’ll love it

You have a lifetime of experience to pass on to these little folks, but they also have a span of particular experience as well. 

Ask them for help on how to use Wikipedia – let them know that you may be older, but you are still enquiring and learning

Show by example. Hey gorgeous, I’m trying to find out about space travel. Is Wikipedia best for that? How do I do it? 

Get them to teach you (whether you already know how or not), they will love to show you their expertise. Hey Mum, I showed Grandpa how to use Wikipedia!

Kodachrome, Karts and Konnection

Okay, the last one is just made up, but it could be a great new game.

Connecting digitally doesn’t have to be about conversation, it can just be having fun together, whether that’s by sharing photos, playing a game, connecting dots, or putting funny faces and hair-do’s onto family photos

You can do it while sitting on the sofa with book apps, or remotely over the internet. It’s a modern version of playing with toys. The toys may be digital rather than wood and plastic, however the end result is the same. It’s fun bonding time together that they will always remember.

Social media – friend or foe?

Grandchildren beyond early years may prefer to keep SMS chat with their friends to themselves, but there are some options such as Instagram that are brilliant for sharing photos and experiences. Give it a try.

It’s important for grandparents and grandchildren to have a diverse range of contact, but if it doesn’t include digital, then it’s kind of like scones without the jam and cream.

Read more for grandparents on Citro 

When is stepping in overstepping?

Should grandparents be paid for child care?

Should grandparents discipline their grandkids?

Read more about navigating technology on Citro

How facial recognition technology works

Understanding digital payments (so you don’t get scammed)

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