Week 10: When baby’s family lives far away

The right thing isn’t always easy.

When I told my family I would be moving to Switzerland, it was frowns all around. I’ve lived across the country from my parents for much of my life. But this was different.

The first granddaughter and niece would be an ocean away. While it was not ideal, it was the right decision for me and my partner to raise Sophie here in Bern.

That means it’s not always easy to stay involved in each others’ day-to-day lives. But I’m convinced distance doesn’t equal distant.

With some creativity, there are a lot of fun things, special things, that long-distance families can do to reach across the miles.

Sophie on Skype with Grandpa and Aunt Kelly

Right now, Skype is No. 1. Babies just a few months old like to watch movement on the computer screen. They may have no idea that that movement is their family, but eventually they will get it. My friend Keryn told me she would tell her toddler son they were going to talk to grandma and grandpa and he would run over to the computer. When you can’t set the baby on grandma’s living room floor, turn on the video camera and let her see your baby roll around in her home overseas. They can snap pictures of the action on the other side of the camera, as well, and build up a little photo collection.

I haven’t been very good at some of these other ideas, but my challenge this week is to get started.

Here are some more tips for keeping family close:

  1. Make a photo book and map for your child – find a small photo album and fill it with pictures of overseas relatives to keep the faces fresh in their small memories. I’ve read that somewhere around year 1 babies can remember the faces they see in pictures. They’ll be more ready to remember family they only see once or twice a year. As you flip through the photo book, tell stories about each of the family members. As they get older, frame a map on a cork board and stick pins in locations where family lives. You can post new pictures of your kids with their family from recent vacations.
  2. Swap videos and journals – if you take video of your baby, make a copy for far-away family members. It just takes a few seconds to make an extra copy and drop it in the mail. If you don’t use video, you can take pictures of anything you want to share  and write a little story to go along with the photos. Grandparents, this works both ways. Take silly self portraits to make them laugh or take a picture of something interesting you want to share, like the flowers blooming in the back yard and write a little note about when they were planted, how they grew.
  3. Ask grandparents to record audio books – my friend Melanie gave me this idea. Her son was born in June and his grandfather lives across the state. So he bought a book with a “record” feature and captured his own voice reading the book to his grandson. You don’t even have to buy a special book. You can record your voice on your computer or any other mechanism and send the recording along with a hard copy of a book.
  4. Letters and post cards – Everyone loves to get snail mail. My Dad is great at this one. He sends cards all the time just reminding us that he’s thinking of us. You can return the favor by writing post cards as if they’re from your baby and send it to family members who will eat up any info on your little one. You can even have photo postcards made with the baby’s picture on the front. As the kids grow, they can take over writing the notes.

Whether you’re across the state, country or globe, distance doesn’t have to mean a distant relationship.

Do you have any tips to share for the long-distance families out there? I’d love to hear other ideas.

About Tara McLaughlin

I'm a stay-at-home mom to two girls in my boyfriend's hometown of Bern, Switzerland. Life as a new mom in a foreign country has been, in so many ways, rewarding and challenging. I will document that journey here, on Another 52 Weeks.
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7 Responses to Week 10: When baby’s family lives far away

  1. Great ideas! I always meant to make a book but never got around to it. Skype really has saved us though. I swear the grandparents have seen how my son, who lives 3000 miles away, grow up more than their granddaughter who is 20 minutes from them. My mom had the brilliant idea of giving my son a few books and then having copies at her house too. Now she can read to him and he can flip through his own book. We are currently working on the fact that he can’t pass his strawberries through the computer and share them with his grammy though 🙂 Also with the iPhone we were able to share some truly amazing moments with family. 50 seconds is all you need to show the first crawling, walking, eating dirt from the garden etc. Our families LOVED it.

    • I like the idea of two copies of the books. We’ll have to add that to the list! 🙂 You should remind her to stock strawberries and she can pretend they made it through the Internet safely. 🙂

  2. Melanie says:

    For Christmas, Max’s grandpa – who lives a little over an hour away in Jackson – bought a recordable book. Grandpa recorded himself reading Together At Heart And it’s a board book so Max can turn the pages and not destroy it! So even though they are far apart, Grandpa can read to Max at any time.

  3. Melanie says:

    Stupid mombie brain….must have skimmed right over the fact that you already mentioned the recordable book. AND that you referenced me! You need to allow your subscribers to DELETE absent minded posts we’ve made to avoid these embarassing situations. lol

    • No way! The addition of it being a board book is a great point. If someone sends a regular floppy page book, it may be a while before it can be used. And we get to see the word “Mombie” in a sentence. 🙂

  4. Heather says:

    I originally started my blog to share pictures and stories with family far away….now if I can just figure out something for those in Ethiopia without internet!!!!!!

  5. ChristinaGlazar says:

    As I left Switzerland in 1995 not many Swiss and for sure not my mom had a computer. Skype is still somewhat a foreign concept to many of my friends and again for sure for my mom. She is 80 and will not enter modern technology any time soon.

    What worked best for me to stay in touch with the people I really care the most is regular phone calls. It worked with my mom and my best girl-friends. I try to visit every year. With every visit we all change a bit. However closeness will remain if you make an effort.

    Good luck in Switzerland. A hard task to adjust with a new baby and coming from such a warm and sonny place.


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