Technology for Grandparents:
Tips for Living Far Away from Grandchildren
Are you living far away from grandchildren? And do you hate it? You’re not alone! I hear every day how there are so many grandparents living far away from grandchildren. . .and yes, they hate it! So, if you’re one of those grandparents, I’m willing to bet that you are always looking for ways to connect with those long distance grandchildren.
We have a modern garden full of technology that even we seniors can use! There are cell phones, computers, tablets, and all the software that is available to make use of those great things! I’m happy to say that much of it is user-friendly technology for grandparents and allows us to chat “in person” with those we love. Well. . .as much as video chat is “in person.”
However, there is one little caveat. . .we aren’t digital natives. And that, my friend, can cause a few weeds to spring up in our garden. So along with all the tech comes the frustrations. . .some from the tech itself and some that are just related to the fact that we are using tech to keep in touch.
Let’s get weeding. . .
How Do You “Chat” When Living Far Away From Grandchildren?
Skype. . .well. . .
Skype is by far one of the most well-known and often-used video chat options. And. . .if it’s working for you, great! However, it’s been one of the most frustrating options for us lately! It seems we’ve had more and more issues trying to use it successfully. Have you had problems with it too? It definitely has had some glitches recently. So, If you have experienced some issues trying to use Skype, I have some user-friendly alternatives for you!
(Just as a disclaimer, I am not representing any of these companies nor am I getting paid for any kind of review. I should also say that this is NOT a comprehensive list. There are many alternatives out there. These are just the ones that we have used personally. . .and they’re FREE!)
I’m starting with this one because it is well known. If you are an Apple junkie, then you are probably already familiar with Facetime. This one is a great alternative IF both ends have an Apple device. Apple does NOT make a Facetime product that works on Android or Windows. But, for iPhone, iPad or any Apple product, Facetime is a great solution!
Just to be clear, I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I’m sure I’m not alone on this one. However, to video chat, Messenger offers a great solution whether you are on a phone or a computer. The good news is that it is accessible on all devices – Android, Windows or any Apple product. You can either jump on Messenger.com or use the Facebook Messenger app.
This one is not well known but has been great for us! It works on all phones. You just download the free app and you’re ready to go! It’s pretty self-explanatory and easy to use. It has the capability to do a video call or send a video recording. This is the app I recommend the most for those living far away from grandchildren.
You only need to have a Google account to access Google Hangouts. Previously, Google had announced that Google Hangouts will be transitioning to Google Chat & Google Meet. I haven’t heard much lately about the change, but for now, you can still use Hangouts as is. It works much like other video chat applications. You just need a device with a camera and a microphone.
(There are definitely others like Viber or What’s App, but I personally haven’t used those. However, you are welcome to try others and leave us a message in the comments about what works or doesn’t work for you!)
Whatever program you use when you’re living far away from grandchildren, just make sure you talk to them regularly. Texting just isn’t a good solution for a face-to-face conversation!
6 Tips to Video Chatting with Long Distance Grandchildren
Papa and I love to video chat with our Littles, and it’s the highlight of our day or week! Through lots of trial and error, we have found some things that make our video chat conversations more productive and enjoyable.
Let’s talk about some of the tips that will make things a bit smoother during a video chat call:
1. Time of Day
Pay attention to the time of day it is for your grandchild. When you’re living far away from grandchildren, you may not know their schedule very well. Don’t try to talk to them if they are in a rush to get out the door to soccer practice, if it’s nap time, or close to a meal time.
Hungry, tired, cranky kids are pretty hard to satisfy. Remember that if you try to talk to them and it seems like it’s a bad time, just arrange a different time, and don’t take it personally.
2. Attention Span
Judge the attention span of your grandchild based on experience or perhaps the suggestion of their parents. Don’t be disappointed if the call doesn’t last as long as you hope. One source reports that you shouldn’t expect your grandchild’s attention to be more than one minute per year of age up to about 6 years old. I have had a bit better luck than that. My long distance grandchildren are a bit active and energetic, but I can keep their attention longer than that. Hopefully, you can too. Just don’t expect too much! (Well, that is unless you are like Papa. He will do anything for a laugh and to keep the attention of the Littles!)
3. Look into the Camera
This one is really hard. Are you like me? Looking at yourself rather than straight ahead? I’m worried that my hair is wonky or that you can’t see my whole face or that maybe my bra strap is showing. Ha ha! I’m still trying to train myself to look into the camera and not at myself in the little square video in the corner. Looking directly at the camera helps you make eye contact, well. . .kind of. . .with your grandkids. One thing that has helped me is to move that little video window somewhere up near the camera. Just try to look into the camera as often as possible, because it will appear as though you are looking right at your little person.
4. Use a Laptop, Tablet or Cell phone (if possible)
This allows you to move around and play games with your grandchild. You can change the scenery or point out things in your surroundings. Small children may get distracted by the keyboard or mouse on a desktop computer anyway. So, encourage your grandchild to be on a portable device as well. The only exception to this is if you are doing something on the computer together like a game or painting a picture together. Those things are sometimes easier on a desktop computer.
5. Be Prepared
Because you can play a game, do some cooking, or create something together, be sure you have all your materials ready to go and available. You don’t want to risk your grandchild losing interest before you even get started. And trust me. . .it only takes a few seconds for your grandchild to get distracted.
6. Always Sign Off with Something Special
Always sign off with hugging the computer or blowing kisses or just high five the camera. You can even make up something that is special between you and your grandchildren. It’s fun to have your “own thing!”
Whatever it is, don’t forget to do it EVERY time. It will give your grandchild some consistency and they will know that it is the end of your time together. Plus, when you’re living far away from grandchildren, you need all the little extra special things you can have to help build those relationships.
So, whether you are living far away from grandchildren or across the street,. . . get talking! “Weed your technology garden” with these suggestions and cut the excuses.
When you get the hang of it, leave a comment below and tell us what do you that makes things easier when you video chat with the grandkids!
Cookies & Milk for Everyone!
P.S. If you would like some ideas of other things to do with your long distance grandkids, check out the 100+ Ways to Spend Time with Grandkids! It’s FREE and there are plenty of things you can do with grandkids both near and far away. Just click below to download it today!!