COVID-19, Family

Should You Move Near The Grandkids?

Debra F. Moore’s daughter and her family moved to McKinney from the Chicago area in 2007, when her son-in-law transferred to North Texas for his job. Moore, then 62, followed them in 2015, after her parents passed away and she retired from her career in social work.

That meant leaving behind the church she loved, five sisters, two brothers and “many, many friends” in Chicago and finding an apartment in North Dallas. Before the stay-at-home orders, Moore — “Tutu” to her grandchildren — regularly spent time with her daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren, ages 21, 18, 17 and 13. She would drive her granddaughters to gymnastics lessons and volleyball games, and, before he graduated from high school, cheered on her grandson at football and basketball games.

“They tell me, ‘Tutu, everybody hears you because you scream so loud,’ ” Moore says.

Moore followed a path that many seniors consider: moving to be closer to children and grandchildren, says Susan Rebillet, a Dallas psychologist who works with older adults.

“My clients are constantly re-evaluating whether to get closer geographically or not,” she said. “There is a lot of anguish around this, especially when the grandchildren are small.”

There are plenty of benefits to being closer. Research suggests that kids whose grandparents play a significant role in their lives may become more resilient and less prone to depression as adults. Grandparents, in turn, have the chance to be there for milestone moments and to support adult children with babysitting and child care.

However, if you’re considering the move, experts caution, think it through carefully.

Manage Expectations

Before you pack up, make sure you and your adult children are clear on how involved you’ll be in their lives. Retirement expert Nancy Schlossberg urges families to have an “expectation exchange” — a conversation about the role you expect to play with them and their children and comparing your vision with theirs.

Pamela Noblitt, 71, echoes that advice after moving 14 years ago from Dallas to Southern California, where her daughter and her family live. “Make sure the family wants you to live close to them,” she says. “It’s a big commitment.”

If your kids expect a full-time nanny and you’re willing to do that, consider whether you’ve got the stamina to handle the responsibility. Make sure there’s a backup plan for times when you need a break. On the other hand, remember that families with schoolchildren are often extraordinarily busy and the time available for just hanging out with grandparents may be limited.

Cindy Jackson and her husband discussed what they envisioned with their grown children before moving at ages 67 and 69 from Bedford, where they’d lived for 27 years. Now they’re in Cary, N.C., near two of their adult children and their families. They’re thrilled to see their five grandchildren often. But Jackson says she’s careful to follow the lead of her adult children.

“Boundaries are good,” she says. “You want to make sure you’re not butting into your children’s lives.”

For Moore, it took a little give-and-take to negotiate a comfortable routine with her daughter’s family. “I kind of overstepped my daughter’s boundaries at first,” she says. “I’d buy the kids clothes and take them places. I’d drop by their house unannounced.”

Her daughter pushed back. “At first, my feelings were hurt, but I got over it,” Moore says. Now the family has a routine that works well now. On Sundays, they attend church together and eat out afterward. Moore steps in to help when asked.

“You have to remember your grandchildren had a life before,” Moore advises. “Don’t think their lives are going to stop just because you got here.”

Consider The Sacrifices

Moving at a later age, of course, involves sacrifices. The Jacksons miss Mexican food, margaritas, and the SMU Mustang basketball and football games they attended when they lived in the Dallas area.

At the 55-plus community where they live now in North Carolina, they’ve joined a church, a bike club, a golf club, a club for Democrats and a book club, plus they volunteer for Meals on Wheels. But they miss their close friends in Texas.

Moving can also mean leaving behind other family members. Alean Shannon waited until 2017 to move from Milwaukee to live with her daughter’s family in Plano, in part because she wanted to stay close to her granddaughter in Milwaukee. When that granddaughter graduated from high school and headed to Spelman College in Atlanta, Shannon decided to make the move.

“I didn’t want to leave my granddaughter, but she left me,” she says, jokingly.

Expectations led to disappointment for Cindy Barsalou, who moved with her husband to Plano four years ago at age 66 to be near grandchildren. She’s less involved in her grandchildren’s lives than she’d hoped, in part because of health problems that flared up soon after her arrival and in part because the kids are a little older and less reliant on their grandparents. Barsalou misses her Hot Springs, Ark., home, situated on a lake. Before the move, her grandchildren spent two weeks there every summer.

“My house in Hot Springs was like their summer vacation destination, and we really enjoyed a lot of quality time when they visited,” she says. Now it’s more a matter of catching the kids’ ball games or meeting for a quick meal.

Barsalou also misses the peace and quiet, the slower pace and the friends she had back in Arkansas. Today, living in a neighborhood with mostly younger couples, she’s found it hard to make new friends.

“For older people, it can be very difficult to move from where you’re comfortable to someplace new, even if you like the new place and it has a lot to offer,” she said.

Not Just The Kids

Noblitt and Moore both advise: Visit the place where you plan to move before making a decision. Look at the cost of living. Figure out what you’ll need to bring and what you won’t need. Think about how you’ll adapt to the climate. If you can, get the layout for your new home in advance, and pack and plan accordingly.

Chuck Marcinkowski said it’s important to make the move for more reasons than just the kids. He and his wife, Debbi, moved from Bakersfield, Calif., to McKinney four years ago, in part to be nearer their two young adult daughters.

After they moved here, one of the daughters relocated to Ohio for a job. But that’s OK, he said, because they also moved to Dallas because they like the area and want to be near a major airport to easily visit family and friends elsewhere.

“It’s been fun being here, to watch the girls get married, buy houses and get off and running with their lives,” he says. “We’re very proud of both of them.” He jokes that the other daughter has begun to “mother” him and his wife — she’s bought groceries for them and urged them to stay at home during the COVID-19 crisis.

Consider The Social Scene

Before moving, think about what life will be like in your new home when you’re not with the grandchildren. If you’re making the move just for the grandchildren, remember that they will grow up soon, advises Noblitt, who moved to California from Dallas.

“My grandchildren are now 11 and 17, so we are not as vital as we once were,” Noblitt says. “We’re still close, but the kids have their own lives.”

Ask yourself: Will you know anyone else in the new community? If not, will you have opportunities to find new friends? Making friends, especially close friends, can be more challenging for older adults. And it takes time.

Shannon developed a new social circle after moving from Milwaukee. Her first priority is helping with her grandchildren, 11 and 13, picking them up from school and driving them to basketball games and karate classes. Before the COVID-19 lockdown, she filled her days with yoga and aerobics classes at the YMCA, church activities and socializing with the Douglass Community Seniors in Plano while the grandkids were in school.

“I’ve met some wonderful people, including several ladies who have also moved here to be with their children and grandchildren,” she says. “I’m happy I made the move while my health is still good and I’m able to enjoy my grandchildren.”

Are you a long distance from your grandchildren? Download the Caribu app to connect with them on a Video-Call today! Read, draw, and do puzzles together whether you are near or far.

You can read the original article on The Dallas Morning News.

Mary Jacobs, Should You Move Near The Grandkids?, June 10th, 2020,