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The bond between grandparents and grandchildren: exploring transnational grandparenthood

By March 22, 2024FinGlobal, Newsletter

The bond between grandparents and grandchildren: exploring transnational grandparenthood

March 22, 2024


Becoming a grandparent marks a significant milestone in life, intertwined with joy and anticipation. However, for many, this journey is accompanied by a bittersweet reality, particularly when geographical distances separate them from their beloved grandchildren.

In today’s global landscape, emigration has become increasingly common, impacting families worldwide. South Africa, like many other nations, has seen its share of individuals leaving its shores in pursuit of new opportunities elsewhere. The statistics speak volumes, revealing the significant number of parents and grandparents left behind, facing the challenge of transnational grandparenthood.

The special bond between grandparents and grandchildren

The bond between grandparent and grandchild is undeniably special, contributing to the well-being of both parties. For many grandparents, particularly grandmothers, it’s a unique relationship that defies description. They see in their grandchildren a reflection of their own children, a source of boundless love and joy. However, when physical distance comes between them, the tangible elements of this connection are tested, posing challenges to the bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

Dealing with the emptiness caused by long distance grandparenting

The departure of adult children, often accompanied by their offspring, leaves a void that is deeply felt. The fear of missing out on precious moments and milestones weighs heavily, underscoring the unfairness of life’s circumstances. Despite the physical distance, the emotional closeness persists, prompting grandparents to seek ways to maintain a connection and keep cherished memories alive.

Central to the bond between grandparents and grandchildren is regular contact. However, living far away from grandchildren poses a significant challenge, necessitating innovative approaches to communication. Emigrant parents, particularly mothers, play a pivotal role as gatekeepers, facilitating or inhibiting interaction between generations. Their attitude towards fostering this relationship influences the frequency and depth of contact between grandparents and grandchildren.

Technology and Maintaining the bond between grandparents and grandchildren

In the digital age, technology serves as a lifeline for transnational families, bridging the gap through virtual communication. Grandparents adept at using platforms like Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime can transcend physical boundaries, albeit with some limitations. While nothing can replace the warmth of in-person visits, digital communication offers avenues for shared experiences and ongoing involvement in grandchildren’s lives.

Overcoming barriers through creativity and adaptability

Despite the challenges of grandparenting from a distance, many grandparents find ways to maintain a strong and meaningful relationship with their grandchildren. Sending a virtual “lollipop” across continents may seem daunting, but through creativity and adaptability, grandparents find ways to express their love and affection. Whether it’s sharing photos, exchanging stories, or participating in virtual activities, the essence of grandparenthood endures, transcending distance and time zones.

The enduring essence of grandparenthood

Despite the challenges of transnational grandparenthood, the honorary title remains a cherished part of identity. Through unwavering love and determination, grandparents navigate the complexities of long distance grandparenting, ensuring that the bonds of family remain unbroken across borders.

Sulette Ferreira is a migration therapist in private practice. You can contact her at

If you require financial and tax emigration advice, or if you’re looking to transfer money from South Africa, feel free to reach out to FinGlobal.

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