Let's look at some of the special things a grandparent can do to stay connected with a beloved grandchild who's off at school.
It's kind of old fashioned these days but email is still a pleasant way of keeping in touch. If you are in the least bit literary, it will be good for him to receive nicely crafted emails with news and gossip from back home. It is important for him to hear and be able to reflect on your opinions about issues and events. Email handles that kind of communication extremely well.
Just be careful to read your missives carefully before you hit the send button. Remember: you are not there to explain what you mean. So don't be cryptic. He's got plenty to do without wondering what's going on back home. It's also simply bad form to give him bad news in an email. Do that over the phone or in person.
It's always a treat to hear a loved one's voice. He'll have his cellphone with him, of course, but probably will have restrictions on when he can use it. So work out a regular time to call which is convenient with him. Don't be a pest. Ask if he is busy. Boarding school schedules can be very full.
If you haven't texted, then you are in for a treat. More importantly, your grandchild will think you are very cool. It will take you a few minutes to figure out the texting conventions. For example, "How are you?" is not something he'd text in full. You'll probably get a message like "How r u" The advantage of texting is that you won't necessarily interrupt whatever he is doing. His phone will buzz or ring to announce that he has a message. But if he is on the playing field, the message will be waiting for him next time he checks his phone. It's kind of heart-warming to see a message from your grandparent which says "Thinking of you! Good luck in your exam. Love, Gramps"
I know. Facebook! You hate it. You love it. But your grandchild's generation doesn't know much else. So, grit your teeth and learn how to create your own Facebook page. Load it with all the photos you can find. He'll spend hours poring over his 1st birthday party photos though he might not admit it to you directly. Facebook is a terrific way to illustrate your family tree and show your grandchildren where they fit in. All those stories about your travels come to life when he can see the pictures and view the videos.
If you are not familiar with Facebook and its privacy issues, get one of your tech savvy friends to show you how to protect yourself from the unscrupulous people who lurk on the Internet.
Skype is a great way for you to visit with your grandchild. This free video call service has been around since 2003. The software is freely available and easy to install. Just be careful to configure it so that you don't reveal any personal information you don't want to reveal. Skype is the perfect tool for long leisurely chats. The video is usually pretty clear allowing you the joy of seeing your beloved grandchild.
Depending on your budget, there are an unlimited number of gifts you can send your grandchild quickly and conveniently. That's what we grandparents do, isn't it? Send our grandkids money. They love to receive it. We love to give it. The simplest way is to just send him money via your bank account. It usually costs nothing and is done in a flash.
Be aware of his activities and academic schedule. That way you can send a care package or a basket of fruit during those hectic exam weeks and other stressful times. Naturally, surprising him is something you should try to do. He'll really appreciate your thoughtfulness. So will his friends. Teens always appreciate food.
Actual physical visits to his school can get a bit tricky. Try your best to plan a visit around a weekend when the school is not in the midst of exams or some other major academic project. Being there for a major game or attending opening night of the school play or to hear his violin solo in the chamber music concert, well, he will be so thrilled you made the effort to come.
Now, the best for last. If you went to the school your grandchild is attending, you will have several special opportunities to visit and be with him. Alumni weekends are all about returning to your alma mater to be with your old classmates. But imagine the emotion when your grandson is standing beside you next to your class plaque and admiring your trophies. That's priceless. The development people will be hovering close by too, making sure you savor the moment. They might even have a suggestion or two as to how you can memorialize those memories.
Enjoy being a grandparent. The only thing better is being a great-grandparent.
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