If you are fortunate enough to have grandkids, you know what a treasure they are. They brighten your life with their smiles and laughter and help keep you active, playful and energized. And you can play an important role in their lives by being an emotional rock, a wise friend and a playful elder; the ‘go-to person’ they rely upon when their parents aren’t available.

Recent research has shown the benefits of children’s relationships with their grandparents for both kids and elders. A study by Boston College researchers found that emotionally close ties between grandparents and adult grandchildren reduced depressive symptoms in both groups. Close grandparent-grandchild relationships are often a sign of stronger family ties. Yet for the first time in U.S. history, millions of children may be receiving less time with their grandparents than previous generations.

Many grandparents live in a different state from their grandkids and may only see them occasionally, such as during holiday visits. Other grandparents live near their grandkids and are more involved in their daily lives. No matter which group you are in, always look for ways you can be more involved in your grandchildren’s lives. Here are three:


Be In Touch Regularly.
If you live far away that might mean Skyping or calling once a week, however you can connect with them. Sending birthday gifts and holiday gifts is part of being a grandparent, but the best gift you can give is your time and attention. Keep a calendar with their important dates, such as school and extracurricular activities, to spark conversations and keep up with what’s going on in their lives.


Plan Surprise Outings.
With my grandkids, I like to pick them up early in the morning and take them on a fun trip. They have no idea where we are going and what we are doing (although I do always let their parents know beforehand!). Often it is something they’ve never done before. We’ve gone kayaking, chartered a boat to go fishing and gone to ball games. Use your imagination and plan something memorable: a trip to a kids’ museum or animal shelter, or maybe a nature hike. It doesn’t have to be costly, and you will both cherish the memories you create and the connections you share.


Show Your Love With Nicknames and Terms of Endearment.
Give each of your grandchildren a unique nickname that means something to the two of you. They will associate that name with you and your love for them. And always tell them you love them when you say goodbye. My custom signoff with my grandchildren is “I love you — big time!”

Do things your grandkids might not expect grandpa or grandma to do. My grandchildren were charged up when I ran in the New York Marathon. In the past I have written Christmas cards to go with each present with a special rhyme and the last word blank (like no matter what the weather you will feel warm in this _____.”

This year I’m working on a Christmas card for each grandchild with the narrative tailored for each.

I would tell you more, but it’s a surprise!

Be full of surprises for your grandkids. Look for ways to position yourself in unique ways in their imagination. Always make it fun, unique and personal, and you will build that special relationship with your grandchild that will enrich life for you both and create lifelong bonds of affection.