Guest blogger Kathy Guzzo recently learned what if feel likes to grandparent kids with special needs from a distance. Today she shares the wisdom she learned about how to support her kids and grandkids from far, far away.
3 Ways to Grandparent Kids with Special Needs from a Distance
Being a grandma is absolutely amazing. With some practice, being a long distance grandma can be accomplished and still be awesome. However being a long distance grandma with an ill grandchild is agonizing. Becoming a grandmother twice in the past three and a half years has filled me with a type of love I didn’t know existed. One problem though, I live in Northern Illinois, one grandchild is in Colorado and the other in Nebraska, definitely to far to just drop in for a visit.
However, with creative planning, the convenience of modern technology, and air transportation my grandma tank has been kept relatively satisfied until a few weeks ago when my 2-year-old grandson became ill and hospitalized in Denver.
As I received reports of his worsening condition, trips to the doctor, the news of his being admitted to the hospital, put on oxygen and IVs, photos of his sad little face, my heart ached for my precious grandson. And not only for him, but also for his parents. Having had this experience as a parent myself, this was part of parenting I had prayed my son and his wife wouldn’t experience, yet here it was. And I was a thousand miles away.
The Plan of Attack
Pray. My first thought was to hop in the car and start driving or get the next plane out of Chicago; neither was feasible so I prayed. I prayed for the medical staff to expertly care for my grandson. I prayed that my son and daughter-in-love would be attentive to the medical care being given, not be anxious, able to rest, and show unconditional love to their son. I prayed that my grandson would respond quickly to the medical treatment always knowing he is loved.
Wait. Next, although I wanted to call them regularly for updates, I held back because I knew they would be inundated with concerned friends and family contacting them, and I didn’t want to be one more person they had to talk to. So I waited, for text, photos, and calls from them. Not the easiest thing to do, but I knew we had a great relationship and they would call when they had news from the doctor or things changed.
Encourage. The third thing I consciously did was support them through encouragement, not advice. I sent messages reminding them that even when they couldn’t physically do anything to help their son, their 24-hour a day presence would help strengthen him. I reassured them that they were great parents and hadn’t done anything wrong to cause this illness. When we talked I reminded them how important it was for them to do what they could to take care of themselves and each other. And, I listened to their hearts as they described the emotional toll this was taking on them. I did ask questions, yet I refrained from interfering by giving advice unless they asked.
Days later, after our grandson was released from the hospital, I thought about my reaction to the long distance crisis. I realized I had responded the exact way I had wanted family and friends to help me years ago when I was dealing with seriously ill children. I wanted encouragement, love, support, reassurance and respect, as well as space to be the parent I felt God had appointed me to be.
Yes, it was agonizing to be so far away, unable to physically see how they were all doing or even do the practical things to take care of them. However, since I can’t change that fact, I choose to focus on the amazing and awesome part of being a grandparent, regardless of the distance.
Are you a long distance grandparent? How do you support your grandchildren and their parents who live far away? Share your ideas in the comment box.
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