Growing up, I was surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived only minutes away. I was raised in the same town my father grew up in, where many of our family members decided to settle down. We not only saw each other for every holiday, but also on your average weekend and for many extracurricular activities and school functions. This was my normal. So, when my husband and I moved to the Midwest two weeks after finding out I was pregnant, I worried that my baby wouldn’t know her extended family. With my husband’s side of the family not living nearby either, we were taking a huge leap to a place where no one and nothing would be familiar.
Having a strong family connection is extremely important to me, and I believe the way I grew up is a key contributing factor of who I am today. While I know in-person interaction won’t be as frequent, there are many other ways I can build the connection between my daughter and our family, especially her grandparents.
If you are facing a similar challenge, here are five easy ways to help your child stay close to his or her grandparents and other extended family or friends.
1. Have Scheduled FaceTime/Video Calls
What did people do before tech tools like FaceTime, Skype, and Google Hangouts? With all of our family and friends living far away, FaceTime has been a lifesaver for staying connected, especially when it comes to grandparents who are just itching to see their grandchild on a boring Thursday afternoon.
Most of the time our video calls are just random, but if that doesn’t work for you and your child, try to plan weekly scheduled calls with the grandparents (let us know how many calls it takes before you actually see the bottom half of grandma’s face). It’s a perfect time for grandma and grandpa to see mom and dad’s face too. Actually, who am I kidding? I’m just the arm holding up the phone so that they can see their grandbaby rollover.
2. Print and Hang Pictures
In this digital age, it’s a nice throwback to have some pictures printed out to be framed and hung on the wall. Not only is it nostalgic and works great as home decor, but it will also help your baby learn to recognize family members. Print out pictures in full color of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and/or anyone important in your life and show them to your baby. Point and name each person as you look at the pictures and make it a game.
You can also have photo books made with photos of family members (and of baby with said family members) to keep on your child’s bookshelves. When you catch them reaching for these books, it’ll warm your heart to know your efforts are making an impact.
3. Create Audiobooks
I’ve noticed that my five-month-old daughter sometimes doesn’t recognize my husband right away when he isn’t wearing his glasses. However, when he speaks to her, she’s all smiles. She recognizes his voice instantly and knows that’s her daddy.
Creating audiobooks is not only an easy, fun way to build your child’s toy inventory, but it’s also a great way for them to become familiar with a voice they might not hear every day. Have each grandparent record an audiobook and read through them every week. Your child might not recognize their voice upon the next immediate interaction, but they will know the familiarity of that voice.
4. Take All the Videos and Pictures
When I first had my daughter, I felt bad spamming all our family with a constant stream of photos and videos. However, I really should not have wasted time worrying about it because now I get requests if a photo or video hasn’t been sent in 24 hours.
With grandparents who can’t swing by on a daily basis, try to take as many pictures and videos you can. Not only will they love seeing their grandchild grow, but you will also look back months from now and be glad you documented everything.
There’s no such thing as boring baby pictures (at least, of your own child), so snap away. Set up a shared photo album on iCloud (if you’re an iPhone family) or another cloud-sharing program (Prime photos and Dropbox are both great options), so you only have to upload once for everyone to access it.
5. Talk About Grandma and Grandpa Everyday
This one is easy, but it is so impactful.
Chat with your little one every day about his or her grandparents. Mention them by name and talk about their house, what they are doing, etc. This will help your child understand the significance of this person they might not see daily and will inject them into their lives. The repetition and consistent conversation will also help in building a connection with grandma and grandpa as they get older.