Many families use the Internet to maintain contact with far-away relatives. If your parents or in-laws are novices at computer use, take some time to tutor them in online skills. Communicating via the Internet is one of the most cost-effective ways to maintain regular contact with family members.
- Set up a separate email account for your children. Knowing that Grandma or Grandpa might send them a personal message will make checking email almost as exciting as picking up a letter at the end of the driveway. You will want to screen their messages first to eliminate inappropriate, unsolicited email. You can also look into using online protection software for kids.
- Set up a regular time for chatting online and invite your family. Instant messaging (offered by servers like Yahoo, MSN, and America Online) is often free and allows you and your loved ones to communicate on-screen in real time.
- Create a family webpage—free space on the Internet abounds (search Google.com to find a long list of possibilities). With a website, you can keep your family up to date with your life, share photos, and even add a message board that can be used for posting family news or a wish list.
The United States Postal Service
Even at 43 cents, the standard letter rate is a bargain. For the cost of one stamp you can send five letter-sized sheets of paper, printed on both sides. Your children may not get to visit with their grandparents as often as you'd like, but by encouraging regular correspondence, you can help foster a long-distance relationship that is special in its own right.
- Get creative with packaging. Mail a letter rolled up in a tube for a little variety—a fun and silly idea, and one that will surely add to your child's anticipation for the letter to reach Grandma's house.
- Older children can initiate a progressive project, such as a line-at-a-time story. A project like this can include as many family members as you like. Begin a story with one or two lines, and then send it off to Grandma and Grandpa. They should each add a few lines to the story and send it either back to your children or to the next relative in line.
- For another progressive project suitable for younger children, draw pictures one piece at a time. A face might start with eyes, only to have glasses—just like Grandma's—drawn in next.
- Share photos from your vacation or latest project. For fun, create a little scrapbook using construction paper. Include several pages of photos and your narration about each event or activity.
- Have your children put together a newsletter. This is a great way for families to stay in touch and keep one another updated on family events, school accomplishments, and individual projects. You can even have your child "report" on distant relatives by encouraging them to call or write and "interview" family members prior to your newsletter's publication.
Creating a long-distance bond between your kids and their cross-country grandparents may take a bit of effort. But with just a little creativity, your kids can develop a special relationship with far-away relatives despite the geographic distance between you.