NANA’S HOUSE by Teresa Kindred

There’s a good friend of mine who doesn’t get to see her grandchildren. She celebrates the typical family times—birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions—with another child and those grandchildren, and she loves that time. But she’s estranged from her other grandchildren and my heart aches for her.

Another friend has a debilitating illness that keeps her from being the physically active grandmother she once was. She wants to do everything she used to do with her grandkids, like playing in the pool and going to the park, but her body won’t allow it.

There are so many grandparents who wish they could be involved with their grandchildren, but for one reason or another, it isn’t possible. Sometimes it’s poor health or estrangement. Sometimes it’s distance. The pandemic surely kept many of us from being the grandparents we want to be.

What, if anything, can we do when life’s challenges and circumstances keep us from spending time with our grandchildren? I know I can only begin to understand how difficult these situations are, so please accept my suggestions for what they are. I pray they are encouraging and helpful for you.

Concentrate on what you can do, not what you can’t.

That’s the big idea, and here are some of the ways we can apply it:

We can Facetime.

It’s not like being there, but in a pinch it will do. Tip: to avoid the “what to talk about” problem, ask lots of questions. Make a list of questions beforehand if it helps. You can also play games via facetime. Even babies will play peek-a-boo on a cell phone! Read age-appropriate books to them. If they are old enough for chapter books, maybe one or two chapters a night. Let them choose the first book and then you get to pick one. That way you can share books you loved as a child, and they will enjoy sharing books they love with you!

We can send cards and letters. 

I treasure my mother’s letters to me when I was in college. Someday your grands will cherish what you write to them. I read a story recently about a grandmother who refuses birthday presents. Instead, every year she sends lists of things she wants her grandchildren to do throughout the year. Things like: find a field of wildflowers and pick a bouquet, then give it to someone with a card. What a wonderful, thoughtful gift and a reminder to slow down and enjoy the small things. The granddaughter who shared this said the lists have created so many great memories, and she still loves looking back at lists from previous years. It’s all because of her grandmother, and each of those memories comes with good thoughts about her grandmother.

We can surprise them with little gifts.

If you don’t live nearby, send them occasional packages. Whether it’s just their favorite candy bar, a book, or a framed photo of some fun moment you shared, a gift is a gift! They love surprises. (Just make sure the parents are on board with what you send and how many gifts their children are receiving. They’re the ones who will have to figure out where to keep them.)

We can pray for them

For grandparents who don’t get to see or interact with their grandkids, this one is especially relevant. The grandkids may not understand the power of prayer, but if you are a person of faith … you do. Pray daily for each grandchild by name. And while you are at it, pray for the world they are growing up in, too.

Even when grandparenting doesn’t go the way you wanted, you are still a grandparent. Keep doing your best as you wait and hope for circumstances to improve so you can go back to being the grandparent you want to be!

How do you stay positive when you can’t be the grandparent you want to be? Interact with Teresa and other grandparents on Facebook at Grandkids Matter or the NanaHood page.

Read more from Teresa here.

Teresa Kindred is a freelance writer, former teacher, and author of several books, including The Faith-Filled Grandmother. She’s the mom of five grown children and “Nana” to seven precious grandchildren. She and her husband live in Kentucky. Her blog for grandparents is at