Does Nan live in a different city? Here are 10 ways grandparents can 'do long distance', according to a family psychologist

Managing a long-distance relationship with grandchildren isn't always easy, but it can be done in a way that keeps you close with your family

long-distance grandparents
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A family psychologist has revealed their top ten tips that can help long-distance grandparents keep a close bond with grandkids who live in a different city to them - and our expert reminds us that long-distance isn't always a bad thing. 

The importance of a strong grandparent-grandchild relationship is one that any parent will understand, from them offering vital practical support with childcare as more than half of grandparents do while parents are at work, to the fun and interest they can bring to a grandchild's life by passing down the hobbies and habits they've picked up over the years. 

But while we focus a lot on the help offered by grandparents who live close by to their relatives, that doesn't mean those who live in different cities or even different countries to their grandkids can't get in on the action. 

It's not unusual for familles to find themselves spread out over a large geographical area with many moving away for different personal and professional opportunities. And with today's technology, it's easier than ever to keep a close bond with one another no matter where we are. 

Anna Mathur, a MBACP accredited psychotherapist and author of the upcoming book The Uncomfortable Truth which will be published on 8th August 2024, believes that this technology gives grandparents the change to recreate the 'richness' of face-to-face contact from a distance and make sure their grandkids feel their love no matter where they are. 

"In this digital age, kids are able to connect with their grandparents in a much more visual and tangible way than they would have a number of years ago," she told us here at

"The ability to witness eye contact and the physical presence of a family member can certainly help the connection feel more tangible than a voice-to-voice phone call which can be hard to hold a young child’s attention. Of course, even the most high quality video call can’t replace the richness of connection that comes with being in the physical presence of someone special, but they can certainly help nurture that contact between those times."

But while technology makes things easy, she doesn't think it should be a grandparents only form of communication with the grandkids. 

The expert explained, "Another way to enjoy connection might be to write letters between grandparents and children, or post artwork! If a grandparent wants to connect with a teen who might feel beyond letter writing and video calls, then finding a video game that can be played over the internet, with a spoken connection can be a powerful way to nurture a bond because some children and teenagers find it easier to talk and open up alongside a shared activity."

It goes to prove that it does take more work to maintain a close bond over a distance, especially as our schedules get busier with work and kids' with various extracurriculars and hobbies. Even when you do live close by, many children lose touch with their grandparents at a surprisingly young age.

So, if you're a long-distance grandparent, to keep that close bond you might want to listen to psychologist Dr Robert N. Kraft's top ten tips for long-distance grandparents which he shared in PsychologyToday

10 ways long-distance grandparents can maintain a strong bonds with their grandkids 

1. Form Friendships. According to Dr Kraft, the relationship between a grandparent and grandchild, especially for older grandchildren, is viewed more as a friendship than any other type of relationship. They want mutual trust and to know that if they speak to you about something, they are doing so in confidence. Therefore, they don't want criticism or judgement from you, they want to call you up, ask for advice and know you're going to give it freely. 

2. Stay Current. The expert doesn't want you to 'stay current' with the trendy teenage slang or latest hit teen series, he wants you to keep up to date with what's going on your grandchild's life. 

He says that young grandchildren want to tell their grandparents about daily activities they've been doing, such as reading, hobbies, homework, meals, and going to their favourite places, and says grandparents should ask about these regularly. However, grandchildren aren't interested in hearing the answers to these questions from their grandparents are are mostly interested in only 'unexpected events' their grandparents have experienced. 

3. Reminisce. Older grandchildren in particular want to hear stories from their grandparents about their lives growing up and the lives of their parents when they were kids and are also eager to learn about past family events and history, Dr Kraft reveals. 

4. Diverse Communication. While modern technology means phone calls, video chats, emails, and texts are easy channels of communication between grandparents and grandkids, the expert says that grandchildren still love to receive cards and letters from their long-distance relatives - especially on their birthdays. 

5. Talk About Learning. Similar to staying current, the expert says grandparents should ask their grandkids about what they're learning at school, nursery or likewise to show an interest in their daily lives and their development.

6. Keep Contact Stable and Frequent. When you first move away from your grandkids, or they do from you, it's easy to call and keep in contact all the time. But as you all adjust, you might notice your calls are growing few and far between. This, the expert says, will massively impact your bond for the worse. 

He shared, "As grandchildren move through adolescence, the easy exchange of small messages in texts is particularly valuable for maintaining frequency and continuity. Over the lifespan of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, Facetime, Google Meet, and Zoom support the long-distance relationship by providing immediacy and versatility."

7. Don't Worry About Reciprocity. With most relationships, it's a two way street. This, the expert says, is not often the case with the grandparent-grandchild bond and grandparents shouldn't expect it to be so. Dr Kraft explains, "Even without responding, grandchildren appreciate the cards, which often become keepsakes."

8. Drag Out Your Visits. When you do get a chance to meet your grandkids in person, start a tradition or activity that can be continued over the phone when you both go back home.

9. Visit! When visiting your grandkids, give them all your attention; create memories that you can both savour and fully immerse yourself in the activities you do together

10. Acknowledge Sadness. Of course, it's sad that you can't see your grandchildren everyday and watch them grow up. Don't push that feeling down, the expert says. Use it to prompt contact and call, text, email, write a letter, or get in the car for a visit so you can stay close with your grandkids.

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.