by Dr. Ken Canfield

Most of us can’t get enough of our grandkids.

The joy and the sense of purpose we feel when we’re with them is unlike just about anything else in life. Then, possibly in our saner moments, we realize that keeping up with active and demanding children is a lot of work, and we’re glad that stage of life is behind us.

Of course, there are some heroic grandparents who step into that role full-time, making sacrifices for the benefit of their grandchildren and getting some precious time to invest in them, but also missing out on some of the rewards of the unique grandparent-grandchild bond.

For the grandparents who are not raising their grandchildren, that special relationship depends on some distance. And “distance” includes grandparents who live far away from their grandkids and only get to see them a few times each year, as well as grandparents who live across town and spend a lot of time with their grands, but they don’t live with them or care for them every day.

That distance contributes to the “magic” of the relationship.

You get to see and enjoy your grandkids, but you aren’t the main one dealing with day-to-day discipline issues or sibling battles, like the parents are. You can form very close bonds with the grandkids, and yet there are always hellos and goodbyes—hugs and kisses when you see each other and when you leave and look forward to the next time. After not seeing or talking to them for several weeks or months, those hugs, calls or texts can be priceless.

The distance also puts you in a key position.

You’re still a close family member, but you’re separated enough that your grandchild, as she grows older, will probably view you as a trusted confidant. You’re an adult who isn’t her parents whom she can go to for unconditional love and acceptance, sound advice and a listening ear. When you reinforce her parents’ decisions and share your own stories and wisdom about an issue, you’re playing a vital and difference-making role in that child’s life.

That’s much more likely to happen when you have a close relationship, but there’s also a little bit of distance. So, maybe the most important action step is to build close bonds with your grandkids, starting when they’re very young. Create the kind of connection that will allow you to be a strong influence when they’re older and they start asking various questions.

(And of course, a positive relationship with their parents is an important part of the picture as well.)

Yes, there are some good things about distance between you and your grandkids. Just don’t let it last too long.

What benefits have you seen from being involved in your grandkids’ lives, but not a constant presence? Share your feedback on our Facebook page.