The fifteen months I spent in Australia after my Daughter had been born were some of the toughest of my life. With my family all overseas, missing them intensly, combined with the guilt I felt for what both they and my daughter were missing out on was huge. I really wanted to ensure I did all i could to keep in touch, ensure they were still able to follow her journey, and as she got older, she would be familiar with their voices and faces.
When we eventually left Australia it weighed heavily on me that i would be subjecting my husbands family to the same struggle my own family had faced. Since moving overseas from Australia, it has been really important to me that my Daughter recognisese her family there and maintains a relationship with them. Hopefully a few of these ideas might be handy if you find yourself across the world from loved ones.
Skype is of course one of the most obvious. It used to grate on me a bit when in a discussion with someone about having my family live overseas they would say “Skype is so good though or “ah well you’ve got Skype”. if it’s your family abroad, I don’t need to tell you a digital image doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to baby cuddles. That said, it is a great way to keep in-touch, and with the IPad you can move around as you chat. I found that my daughter would only stay still for a minute or two and then she was off (which is still the case), so I tended to put the rear camera on, so that my Mum or whomever I was chatting to could watch her play whilst I spoke. I would try and remember to dress her in an outfit they had recently sent, or offer her a toy, as they miss the opportunity to see her enjoying it when they aren’t regularly getting to spend time with her.
Scheduling is often tricky, you can commit to a time but then there’ll be an impromptu feed, meltdown, nap. ensuring everyone has an app on their phone with the World clock for your location is essential, and a flexible attitude so that Skye dates don’t feel like a formal commitment you’re struggling to meet. at the same time, dedicating a set time, like a Sunday morning, can be really handy. I have put a reminder in my husbands phone for every saturday morning to remind him to check in.
it’s a little easier to Skype before they are mobile!
I set up a Whatsapp group for my family and sent photos and short videos most days. Be sure that they set their Whatsapp on mute for alerts for the group if there’s a large time difference. As much as they adore their Grandchild, they may not wish to be woken by discussions about it nightly.
There is also an app called Tiny Beans you can use to upload photos to a personalised group, they will get the photos sent to them via email or on the app if they also download it. It’s a lovely way to chronicle memories as theres a calendar and you can look back on the images, and theres a space beneath for comments (like Facebook).
My Mother in law came up with the ingenius idea to record herself and fellow family members reading stories to my Daughter. it’s such a brilliant idea, i have kicked myself for not thinking of it sooner. My daughter adores watching them reading the stories over, and over. And I think my Mother in Law may have missed her calling as a Playschool presenter.
As well as the recorded stories, they send through video messages. i often show her photos and point out who’s who. And we have photos of all of our family on the walls in our stair way so as we go up and downstairs she points out to us who’s who. She initiates it now, and when handed a toy phone she is usually speaking to nanny or Poppy.
I make a Picabooki for my daughter for Christmas. It’s a lift the flap book with your own photos inside. The online wizard to make it is really simple, and even if you don’t have family overseas, children adore seeing familiar faces under the flaps.
Blogging can also be a really nice was to chronicle your adventures. If you want to create something just for family, WordPress has privacy settings which enable that.
A youtube channel could also be a really fun idea for older children to help create, and helps work around the time difference too.
Sending their paintings and drawings is also a lovely way to maintain that connection, so that their family abroad can proudly display it on their fridge. And in this digital age, printed photos or personalised items such as mugs and key-rings (I’ve made both via vistaprint) can be that little bit more precious when the Child lives overseas.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you, I’d love to hear how you build relationships between your Children and family overseas.