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3 ways to help children bond with long-distance family

A mother and her two children talk to family long distance on their laptop computerMy kids and I have been trying to talk to my Dad, who lives in England, for the past four days. By the time their Papa is up my kids are already in bed, so trying to find a good time is hard.

There is something so special about the bond between grandparents and grandchildren that I can’t seem to shake the feeling that distance is depriving both parties of something wonderful.

And whilst the time difference can make it hard to speak to loved ones as often as you would like, having family living in a different city or town also presents many of the same challenges.

The feeling becomes more acute when long-awaited visits happen and you see the mutual love in action. When it is time for the stay to end, the goodbyes can be heartbreaking.

Weekends are usually our best bet for a proper catch-up but after a full week of work and school I’m not going to say no to a sleep-in. Then there’s Nippers on Sunday morning, blah, blah. I’m sure you get it.

My son and I managed a couple of minutes of FaceTime to Papa on the bus yesterday, but as soon as my son started yelling at the phone about the dog poo he had just seen on the pavement, I was keen to shut him down and we said goodbye before he could go into the details.

Last night we finally caught up after my seven year-old daughter (who doesn’t understand the finer points of time zones) took it upon herself to FaceTime him at the crack of his dawn. Even though he was half asleep he listened to my daughter’s latest Tom Gates book and donned his Darth Vader mask to play Star Wars with my four year-old son.

I want my children’s relationship with their English family to thrive and we are constantly trying to find ways to strengthen their bond.

Here are the top three things that we have discovered help us feel like a worldwide family:

1. Virtual traditions

We have weekly ‘show and tell’ sessions of new books, toys and school projects. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live across the world from your family without video chat!

When the kids weren’t quite sure what they were going to talk about, they could sometimes be reluctant to tear themselves away from whatever they were playing with, but having traditions means my kids look forward to these catch-ups.

2. Embracing snail mail

Receiving parcels and letters from loved ones is awesome whatever your age. Taking the time to create packages is also a great way to get kids thinking about others and spreading love. We fill ours with cards, craft projects and books that we have created. Waiting for a reply is good for developing their patience too!

My sister travels a lot and we love getting postcards from all the places she has visited. Whilst opening UK-made Dairy Milk is sadly now one of my greatest pleasures in life.

3. Keep family in the loop with the everyday moments

Every day I share photos and videos of our adventures and the small details I would forget to mention on the phone. Seeing our daily lives helps my family feel connected and involved.

When it snowed recently in England my kids were blown away. “Snow in summer? Noooooo!” It is a great way to begin talking about what makes the world interesting.

Image credit: goodluz/123RF Stock Photo

About Sarah-Jane Kurtini

Sarah-Jane Kurtini is a founder of Tinybeans and a mum of two. S-J moved to Australia from the UK in 2009 and one of the big reasons for setting up Tinybeans was to help keep her family up to date with her kids’ ...

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1 Comment so far -
  • Joanna says:

    Tiny Beans is fantastic for the adults as they see the kids everyday, for the kids we put photos up of them with the family in their bedrooms and create photo books from the holidays/visits together. Duo is also fabulous for staying in touch as Skype can be a bit intermittent with it’s connection.

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