Building Relationships with Family Near or Far

Having your child’s grandparents, aunts, and uncles involved in their lives can be a wonderful thing. Whether your family lives down the road or around the world, here are some tips to help build a positive relationship.

Time Together

  • Encourage your family member to establish a ritual that they do with the child every time they get together – something as simple as going to the park to swing (no matter the weather), going for a walk to get an ice cream cone, working on a craft project or puzzle together.
  • Rather than bringing gifts on each visit, encourage your family member to bring simple things that they can DO WITH THE CHILD. Like puzzles, paints, a game, a book to read.
  • Playing board games or card games together can be a nice way to interact. Your family will see your child’s growing skills, and your child will learn about rules and fair play.
  • Have your child spend time alone with family members, without you always there, and without siblings along. A trip to the library or the local park can be a nice outing.

Gifts and Traditions

  • Encourage family members to create traditions. My mother has made every Halloween costume for my kids over the years, and they have had the joy of picking any character from any book or movie for Grandma to re-create. (Some have been pretty challenging!)
  • Encourage family members to give gifts that showcase their talents. If they knit, sew, cook, take photos, or build things, then that gift has its own meaning, but also gives you a chance to talk to your child about all the cool things the grandparents know how to do.

Comforts of Home

Children are reassured by routine and predictability. Although my husband rarely visited his grandmother in England, he knew that when he did, there would be buttered bread and digestive biscuits. My grandparents lived nearby, and at one house, I knew I would find home-made taffy, coloring books and Reader’s Digests. At the other house, there were always word-search puzzles and my grandmother’s collection of little ceramic and metal shoes, which I could play with if I was very careful. Encourage your family members to think about what the reliable treats will be at their house.

Common Interests

Find things your child has in common with family members, and encourage them to share that interest. My toddler son and his grandpa spend a lot of time talking about trains! My teenage daughter and her aunt go on Starbucks runs and shopping trips together.

Share family stories

  • Talk to your kids about your childhood, your parents, what their lives were like when they’re younger, and what they do now. This helps to ground your child in the history of the family.
  • Encourage family to share their memories of day-to-day life when they were young, and their memories of historical events. This gives your child a deeper understanding of the past.

Encourage your children to reach out to other family members for advice and support

  • Let them know there are other adults in their life they can count on for wisdom and empathy.

Look for a continuation of this article tomorrow with more ideas on connecting to long-distance family members.

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