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Grandparenting across the miles

Reenie and Joe are proud grandparents to their four young grandchildren. However, with their two daughters now living abroad, it’s a relationship that Reenie and Joe are determined to make sure stays strong despite the distance.

The couple travel once a year to visit their daughters and their families in Hong Kong and Melbourne. The daughters also make a return trip to Singapore once a year, so Reenie and Joe get to spend valuable time with their grandchildren twice a year.

Communicating long distance

“Between our visits, we stay in touch every other week over Facetime,” explains Reenie. “We play word games together during our calls, and that is a special bonding time for me.” Reenie takes a positive view of the long-distance relationship. With the family being separated by miles, she and Joe have been forced to keep up with the latest technologies to stay in touch with their daughters and grandchildren. “As the children get older and learn to use more apps, we have to keep up with them too. The children are always teaching us new things, which of course helps us stay mentally active as well.”

Reenie keeps up to date between visits, making sure that she understands the grandchildren’s latest interests as they develop so that they can get the presents right when they meet. “Although I like to give them gifts that will take them away from the technology for a while,” Reenie adds.

Making the most of visits

When the couple visit with their children, they make themselves 100% available. The grandchildren have their schedules to maintain, with school and extracurricular activities to attend to so we need to keep to their schedule as well. “But it is a good thing, I’ve noticed, with our grandchildren; these activities help them to develop in confidence, and that’s a wonderful thing to see.”

Reenie also steps in to babysit as often as she can to give her daughters some needed “me” time. It’s something she’s all too happy to do as it means extra bonding time with the grandkids.

Understanding how important these visits are to maintain that bond as the children grow, Joe and Reenie do  worry that, as the couple age, they will one day be too frail to make the trips out of Singapore to visit their family.

The usual challenges

“Of course, we face the usual challenges all grandparents face as well,” says Reenie. “We are both getting old, so we are not as fast on our feet as we used to be. Trying to catch up with the grandchildren as they run around can be exhausting.”

Joe suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, which now affects his ability to speak, so communicating with the children can be a challenge for him. “But he’s always there for them,” Reenie adds. The couple are keen to maintain their health so they can remain as active as they can for the grandchildren.

Taking the back seat

When it comes to parenting, the grandparents take a step back. “In our day, we relied a lot on our parents for advice. But today, my daughters have all the information they need from books and the Internet and want to parent their children their way. It’s not up to us to interfere,” Reenie explains. “I’ll offer solutions only if I’m asked and I’m there to listen.”

Reenie is very proud of how her sons-in-law parent. “They are very hands-on fathers. They recognise that they need to take an equal role since both parents work full time.”

The perks of grandparenthood

Being a grandparent is a rite of passage that some don’t get to take, so Reenie is extremely grateful for the experience. “When I saw the image of the scan when my daughter was pregnant with the first grandchild, I was overjoyed and so thankful to God. I didn’t get to have this with my children. I’ve kept the scan images of all my grandchildren.”

Another perk of being a grandparent is getting to spoil the kids and not having to deal with the discipline aspect of bringing them up. “I sometimes feel the kids get away with too much and aren’t disciplined when they should be, but as I said, it’s not my place to interfere, even in matters of the Church,” Reenie explains.

Growing up in the Church

Her eldest daughter has moved away from the Church. “It saddens me to know that my grandchildren aren’t baptised. But, I’m hopeful now; she has started to make more references to God whenever we talk over Facetime.” Reenie explained. “I am filled with hope that in God’s time, she will come back to the Church.”

Her second daughter, on the other hand, had her son baptized and her daughter will be baptized too, when she is a little older. Reenie is hopeful that in time they will attend catechism classes.

“But either way, I trust my children to bring their children up well,” she adds. “Every child makes mistakes. It’s part of growing up. Your responsibility as a parent is to help them learn from the mistakes and support them when they’re down.”

Invest the time

Asked what advice she would give to others starting their grandparenthood journey, Reenie says to go with the flow and support your children’s parenting decisions even if you don’t agree with them. Drawing on her own experience of having limited time with her grandchildren, she advises to spend as much time as you can with your grandchildren as they grow up so fast. “Get to know them,” Reenie adds, “and invest your time in them to build that precious relationship.”

Calling all Grandparents!

“You are an important presence, because your experience is a precious treasure, essential to looking to the future with hope and responsibility,”

Pope Francis to an audience of 7,000 grandparents in Oct. 15, 2016.

Most grandparents have a great retirement plan but have we ever wondered what God’s plan is for grandparents. Catholic grandparents have a unique vocation. The greatest legacy grandparents can pass on to their grandchildren is not a legacy of material wealth but the legacy of character and faith-to strive towards creating opportunities to bring unity in the family through their own life!  How can we achieve this?

Good News! Keeping the call of the Holy Father in mind, the ACF plans to bring programmes and create a community support for Catholic grandparents to share God’s plan for grandparents. The aim is not just to build strong and lasting intergenerational connections with their grandchildren but to pass and build on the inheritance that God gives us, his sons and daughters. Today grandparents are urged to promote a culture of life through their own emotional and spiritual bonding with their children and grandchildren!  As we countdown to celebrating grandparent’s day on 24th November, here are some tips:

  1. Pray for your grandchildren every day.
  2. Impart values and virtues when they are innocent and curious
  3. Tell you grandchildren the best qualities of their mum and dad
  4. Proudly display around family pictures, past and present and share the important milestones of your sacraments.
  5. Being as little as they are, make them feel 10 feet tall
  6. Cherish boundaries that keep your love from coming between their parents

If you are interested to find out more please email

Ignatius and Florence Soh: Ignatius.soh@gmail.com

Joseph and Reenie Tan: reenie.tan@yahoo.com.sg

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family

Archdiocesan Commission for the Family