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“Skype hugs are not the same”

May 5, 2021

Grandchildren are any grandparent’s greatest pride. Enjoying life with them, sticking plasters on their little wounds, hugging them or attending their school concerts is the cherry on the cake for every grandma and grandpa.

But what should grandparents do if their children and grandchildren live abroad? The immigration consulting firm Sable International estimates that approximately 25 000 South Africans move abroad each year.

For the grandparents left behind, especially the loss of physical contact with their grandchildren is a huge and difficult adjustment. One of our readers wrote to us, “Hugs on Skype are just not the same.”

Dr Sulette Ferreira is a family therapist who researches the effects of emigration on parents and grandparents left behind. According to Netwerk 24, she believes grandparents’ role can never be taken away from them. “Find resignation in it. You are still grandma or grandpa and always will be. That will never change; only the practical implications differ. Your life does not stop either. You can fill that gap with new things and remain part of your children and grandchildren’s lives.”

Here are a few ways you can maintain that special bond between you and your grandchildren:

  1. Story time

Think of new and creative ways to involve your grandchildren. Send a voice note or make a voice recording in which you read or tell a short story to them. Or get a special song on which you and your grandchildren can dance and sing together.

  1. Make and bake

According to Ferreira, technology is very important for maintaining long-distance relationships. Learn to use FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype. Then ask mom to buy the ingredients so you and your grandchild can make and bake together over Skype or FaceTime. And enjoy a cup of tea when you finished baking.

  1. Take on a project together

Nothing prevents you from working on a project or task with your grandchildren. Draw or paint together, for example, or pose a challenge such as “draw five flowers” and show them to each other when you talk again.

  1. Write letters

Write letters to your older grandchildren regularly and encourage them to write back. Nothing can be more enjoyable than receiving something special just for you in the mail! This is the perfect opportunity to create timeless memories.

And when the longing becomes too much, remember: You are not alone. Your children and grandchildren miss you just as much, and they are just a phone call away!

Also read: Emigrating? How to help your children adapt

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