Is your grandchild going away to private school? Perhaps you are wondering how you can fit into his new life away from home. You have always enjoyed watching him grow up. You've gone on trips and vacations together. Just because he's away at school doesn't mean that you can't be close. After all this is the 21st century when it's easy to stay connected.
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 hectic at times.
If you haven't texted, then you are in for a treat. More importantly, your grandchild will think you are very cool. The younger generation seem to prefer texting to phone conversations. 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 his grandparent which says "Thinking of you! Good luck on your exam. Love, Gramps"
Tip: turn off the Auto-correct feature on your smartphone. That will save you much embarrassment. If you use the microphone to dictate your messages, check the message before sending it. Make sure that you are sending it to the right person. Also make sure that nothing in your message could be misconstrued or gives offense.
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.
Are you ready for more social media? The kids love Twitter. Many of them actually prefer it to Facebook. He will probably use Twitter more than you will. The point is that you will be able to stay in touch by following his Tweets.
With all social media I recommend that you observe certain rules of the road or netiquette if you will.
1. Don't post comments on every one of your grandchild's Facebook posts. Use common sense. You really don't want to embarrass him. I find that a 'Like' is often the appropriate response to a post. Of course, if your grandchild is posting about some accomplishment or achievement, gush away. That's what we grandparents do best. If you prefer, you can always post a laudatory post on your own Facebook page. That way only your friends will see it. Not his. Another way of accomplishing pretty much the same thing is to Share his original post on your Timeline. Experiment and see what works best for you. The important thing is not to embarrass him with silly comments on his Facebook page.
2. Don't post or share jokes unless they are absolutely sweet and harmless. The kind of jokes a 3rd grader would appreciate.
3. Configure your Facebook settings so that they are as private as possible. I personally do not care to know where my Facebook friends are or have been unless, of course, they specifically post something about where they have been. Not sure how to configure your Facebook privacy settings? Your grandchild can show you what to do.
Skype and Facetime
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.
If you and your grandchildren have iPhones and/or iPads, Facetime works effortlessly. It's really fun to receive an unexpected call from your grandchildren when all he needs is a hug and an "I love you!" Video communications are easy to use whenever and wherever you want to use them.
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 transfer from your bank account. It usually costs nothing and is done in a flash. It is also secure unlike sending cash in an envelope.
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. Be there for a major game or attending opening night of the school play or to hear his violin solo in the chamber music concert. 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. Be proud of your grandchildren. Enjoy them. The only thing better is being a great-grandparent.
Questions? Contact me on Twitter. @privateschl