With over 5 million UK nationals living abroad, many young families are coming up with creative ways to ensure their children have a relationship with their grandparents. Half our family is based in New Zealand and the other, much closer to home. In this post I’m sharing some ideas to help new parents bridge that gap.
PLAN A VISIT
Having a fixture on the calender, can make a massive difference to moral and take the pressure off you as a parent. Make sure that the dates, time frame and length of the trip work for you, before approaching the grandparents. We try to meet half way between us and them, but find a solution that is financially viable. Either them to you or you to them (travelling with a newborn can be intimidating but you will find plenty of help on website!) You can then create or make a countdown board for them so they can visibly see the days decreasing, and/or for your children (age dependent).
A visit requires planning to ensure that everyone is happy with the arrangements. Ultimately, finances will have a big impact on what, when and where that first meeting will take place. You may find that these are some helpful questions to consider:
- What is the right amount of visits for long-distance grandparents? once a year? every 6 months? more or less frequent?
- Do you agree about who is going to visit whom – whether you’ll take it in turns or whether they will always come and see you?
Someone is always going to be the guest and someone the host – and that may affect your relationship.
- Do they have room for you to stay or do you have to organise accommodation?
- Do you want to stay there or would you rather be able to come and go as you please?
Cheap and easy to use, platforms such as Skype and FaceTime provide a flexible face-to-face online chat. Work out time differences and nap times before making an ‘appointment’ so as to avoid disappointment. We all have busy lives so planning a regular chat on the same day, at the same time, gives you freedom and something that grandparents can look forward to. It also means that if you are busy during the week and people are requesting updates and photographs, you can refer to the video chat and that you will fill them in then.
Depending on ages, you can sit down with your children and write letters to send to family and relatives around the world. You can write for them or produce the update and let them sign it. Either way, it works as a great bonding exercise for the children and you, to sit down and discuss their day. Provides an educational experience and opportunities for self expression. Plus the excitement of receiving a reply is priceless.
MARK SPECIAL OCCASIONS
Birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions – make cards for them all! At Christmas this year, we had a ‘factory style’ set up to mass produce cards using George’s feet to make the Christmas trees. Time consuming but, worth it. We made Rudolph and Christmas tree cards and enclosed a picture of George dressed as Santa. A card that features a hand or footprint works as a keepsake and memorabilia, as well as making the grandparent feel special. They can look at the size of the hand or foot and compare it to when their own children were of a similar size or, marvel at the rate of growth your child is exhibiting.
WEAR CUTE OUTFITS
If there is an outfit for it, we purchase it! George is our first child and therefore, is the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Naturally, we find ourselves wanting to dress him up in themed outfits, because that’s half of the fun of being first time parents! Halloween, St Paddy’s day or Christmas. It isn’t a chore and we are not putting ourselves out by recording the occasion with photographs. These pictures are wonderful keep sakes and belong in a frame which can then be gifted to grandparents, all at minimal shipping costs.
MAIL ART WORK
Most weeks when I collect George from day care, we are given his latest ‘art work’. One week, he had simply put some glue on a sheet?! But most times said art work is eligible and instead of taking up room on the fridge or going in the bin – why not send it in the post to the grandparents? They will appreciate it more and most creations are on fold-able paper and lightweight so again, minimal cost to send.
FACEBOOK MESSENGER GROUPS
Most grandparents have a social media presence, with Facebook being favoured by the majority. I have set up several groups for family members and once a week or then and there (if I remember) I fire across a handful of pictures and videos so that within minutes, all parties have things they can access at their own time. Replaying them s many times as they want and also provides them with a private pace to talk about your grandchild amongst themselves. You can create as many different groups as is required (feuding relatives etc.) or schedule a day once a week where you upload pictures from that week.
We have so many family members, on several different platforms, that I have to it down once a week for half an hour and go through the different paths and send pictures to keep everyone in the loop. But they really do appreciate it and when I am at work and receive a picture of George it makes my day, so it;s the least I can do for those family and friends who are unable to see George everyday.
A quick and easy way to document changes in your child’s life. I try to include a reference to Grandma or Grandad to give it a more personal touch. Often it’s the things we deem boring as parents, that we have seen a thousand times that are the most precious. The un-staged photographs or the videos we can’t post on social media because we swear in them or your child is running around naked! I try to film new developments or when George masters a new skill and then share it with everyone. Brings joy to hear some of the responses! Especially when you film your child have an epic meltdown – they can bring laughter and relief to a tense situation.