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Making Far-Away Family Members Feel Closer to Home

Making Far-Away Family Members Feel Closer to Home

By Rachel Meeks

We have a lot of family who live far away, and it’s hard for my small kids to feel like they know them and be comfortable around them. When family gatherings happen once a year, it takes a while for the kids to warm up to cousins and grandmothers whom they rarely see. And that’s fine. I don’t force my kid to climb up on someone’s lap and give them a hug when they would rather cling to my leg and hide their face around people who aren’t so familiar.

They warm up eventually, and in the meantime I look for ways to incorporate far-away family members into our daily life so my kids will know they are loved by a great group of people.

We talk about them and share memories.

“Remember when you went to New York to see them and you rode the subway?” “Do you remember when we went to the country and you played outside with your cousins?”  This is also a perfect time to point out what they have in common with family members,  whether it be a shared genetic trait like the same eye color or common interests. “You have brown eyes just like your Aunt LeLe.” “You know who else likes ice cream? Your Papaw likes ice cream too.” It helps them to relate to people who are so much bigger and older than them.

We cherish gifts.

It’s not that I want to place importance on the thing itself. I don’t want my kids to feel obligation or guilt that they always have to keep a blanket because someone who loves them gave it to them. I want to emphasize the thoughtfulness and intention behind the gift, so when my daughter mentions how much she loves her toy, I take a moment to remind her of the person who gave it to her. “She wanted you to have it because she thought you would have a lot of fun playing with it.”

We use photo flash cards.

To help my  one-year-old child recognize people’s faces, I created photo flash cards. It also helped her learn names of household objects and the places we go. I have no idea if it helped her to recognize them, but she liked looking at them. They were time consuming to make though, and if I were to do it again, I would probably just print the photos and not go to the trouble of cutting or laminating them, or I would upload them to a photo website to make a mini album.

We create movies.

Instead of sending a birthday card to my brother this year, we made a movie of our family singing Happy Birthday to him and emailed it to him. It was so fun when he and his wife did the same and sent a movie of themselves singing to my daughter for her birthday. Those movies were fun now, and they will be even more precious in thirty years. It didn’t take much time, but we watched those quick movies over and over again. It was special to see a movie made just for her.

What ways do you try to help your kids get to know  distant family members?

About the Author

Rachel Meeks

Rachel Meeks is the voice behind the popular blog Small Notebook, a resource for simplifying and organizing your home. (Because it’s so much easier to b...

Rachel Meeks is the voice behind the popular blog Small Notebook, a resource for simplifying and organizing your home. (Because it’s so much easier to be a parent when you’re not surrounded by a ton of stuff.)

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  • LBH

    August 2, 2011 at 11:17 am

    SKYPE. My sons skype with their grandparents three times a week–it may only be 5 or 10 minutes each time, but the 2 year old has really gotten used to seeing his grandparents this way and automatically yells GRAM!!!! when we pull out the laptop. For the grandparents, they’ve been able to see our 6mth old grow every week

  • Trish

    August 2, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I second the Skype recommendation. It takes a minute when the person from Skype walks through the door, but only a minute, and the warm up period is over. All our out-of-state family loves it.

  • Robyn

    August 4, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Another vote for video chat on skype!

  • Kelly

    August 23, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    How about post cards between family members? We have a 5 year old son adopted thru foster care and I have step kids that are 20, 22 and 25. The oldest just left for a year of teaching English in Korea and the middle is serving in Afghanistan right now. The youngest is only a couple of hours away, but busy lives make it hard to see each other as much as we’d like. We homeschool our 5 year old, so post cards can help us with geography also!

  • deb

    August 24, 2011 at 6:52 am

    my granddaughtter lives across the country.  I make small photo books for her  of each visit, making sure to include pictures of each family member to help her remember us and the Fu thi gs we did.  She often takes her ” vacation” books to school for show-and-share.  I also made a map for her with dots for everyone’s location.  And, thank heaven for Skype!!  She shows us all her latest moves, sings new songs, shows us art work and we get to actually see her!   I