Connecting generations

Don’t you love watching your kids interact with your parents? Grandparent relationships are special, but can’t always take place in close proximity.

My children have never lived in the same town as their grandparents, but we’ve always encouraged relationships between them. Through technology, children have a variety of options to stay connected to their grandparents, regardless of where they live. Here are a few ideas:

Skype. Skype is a fun way for your kids to visually connect. All you need is a personal computer with an internet connection and a built-in or clip-on camera. Download the Skype application for free and connect with any other user. It’s a great way for your children to personally connect with their grandparents as they see each other while talking. I love the idea of my kids using Skype to demonstrate a science project or show off pictures from a cheerleading competition.

Texting. Most tweens and teens carry cellphones and text with each other nonstop. You might need to encourage your children’s grandparents to begin the texting routine, but once they develop the habit, they’ll discover how easy it is to fire off a text and find out what’s happening with their grandchild.

One grandmother who texts frequently with her grandchild says, “The best part of texting with my grand kids is receiving a text at the end of the day that says ‘I love you.’ ” Texting allows kids to let go of the “coolness” factor and have a meaningful conversation with their grandparents.

Instagram. Social media sites abound in the tween and teen world, and Instagram is one used often by kids and adults. It offers grandparents a unique way to keep up with pictures their grandchildren are sharing. Older adults may not be comfortable posting to Instagram, but can easily log in and peer into the life of their grandchildren in a non-imposing way.

FaceTime. Similar to Skype, FaceTime allows your kids to see their grandparents while they converse through a video call. Introduced by Apple, FaceTime is available through the iPhone 4 or later, iPad 2 or later, iPad Mini, iPod touch fourth generation or later, and Mac with Mac OS X v10.6.6 or later. It’s easy to use and conveniently connects you with another FaceTime user over a wifi or cellular data connection. It’s another great way for grandkids to personally see smiling faces and proud expressions as they share experiences with their grandparents.

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. A variety of these additional social media sites can be used to promote communication between grandparents and grandchildren. The key lies in what sites your children enjoy using and whether they can convince their grandparents to try them. Tech-savvy grandparents might enjoy branching out into various forms of technology if they find it helps connect them to their grandchildren.

It’s not unusual for grandchildren and grandparents to live miles away from one other. However, that doesn’t have to prevent a meaningful relationship between them. It may require some prodding in the beginning to get your parents to venture out into the world of technology, but it’s worth the effort.

Older generations are often intimidated by technology. Mary Larmoyeux, co-author of “The Grand Connection: 365 Ways to Connect with Your Grandchild’s Heart,” says she had to learn to be uncomfortable as she discovered the best ways to connect with her grandchildren. She encourages grandparents to “learn new technology if that’s what it takes to stay in touch with loved ones.”

The next time their grandparents come to visit is a good opportunity for your children to introduce their preferred way to connect. Showing their grandparents how to use the technology and practicing together will boost grandparents’ confidence before trying it on their own. Encouraging your children to be patient as their grandparents get used to the new technology will help the process.

Don’t despair if your parents have less opportunity to visit as they age, or if your job takes you to a different part of the country. Encourage your children to nurture their grandparent relationships through the latest technology to help foster engaging and meaningful interactions.

Gayla Grace is a freelance writer and mom to five children who enjoy connecting with their grandparents through technology.