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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.