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Your Child Today: 5 to 8 years

Staying Close to Grandparents: Even when they live far away

Children grow closest to grandparents during their early-childhood years. But if distance or other factors have prevented your child from developing a great relationship with his grandparents, it's not too late!

For a 5-to-8-year-old, "the world is wide open," explains Paul Egeland, professor of human growth and development at Wheaton (Ill.) College. "He's building new relationships every day?beyond his neighborhood to a whole school full of kids and teachers."

Help your child expand his relationships with grandparents now, as his world is expanding. Even if your parents and in-laws live far away, you can help your child grow close to them.

Talk about Grandma and Grandpa. When we're baking, I tell my daughter, "Your grandma taught me how to make this cinnamon cake." When my husband is rough-housing with the kids, I tell them, "One time my dad, your grandpa, stood on his head for almost an hour?just to make us laugh."

When you bring Grandpa and Grandma into everyday conversations, your child learns her grandparents' distinct personalities and even notices which characteristics have carried over into your family.

Make a photo gallery. Cover your fridge with snapshots, or create a mini gallery in your child's room. Pictures of your child with his grandparents show the relationship that exists.

Tell a story. My kids love to hear "When I was a little girl" stories, which invariably include their grandparents.

I also tell them "When Grandpa was a boy" stories. Storytelling gives kids a sense of family history. Plus, they have something to talk about the next time they see their grandparents.

Reach out and touch. When the kids mention their grandparents, be spontaneous and pick up the phone. Or get in touch with grandparents on the first day of school or just to say, "Today the kids are wearing the outfits you sent." And don't forget to include grandparents in celebrations of your kids' achievements at school and church.

Pray for Grandma and Grandpa. My kids know their grandparents pray for them every day. We pray, too. Recently we prayed for Grandpa LaPlaca while he was hospitalized?and for Grandma, who was home alone. Through prayer, your child participates in her grandparents' lives.

Make your mail carrier crazy. Send the grandparents Sunday school papers, funny drawings and photocopies of award certificates. If you see an article about Grandma's favorite hobby, send it to her. Grandparents love receiving mail.

Be creative gift-givers. Help your kids make or purchase gifts that reflect each grandparent's tastes and hobbies. It's one more way to help a child see his grandparents as distinct characters and precious people in his life.

?Annette LaPlaca
Author, editor and mother of two

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