It is a known fact that most military children will never live in the same town as their families. Some do and those are the lucky ones. They get to have weekend sleepovers with grandparents and Sunday dinners and long summer days playing with cousins. But, what about the kids who don’t get those chances? How do we, the parents, help build those crucial bonds with family? Well, I’m happy to say that I think my husband and I and our families are achieving this. Our children have never lived near family yet when we come together you would think they did. They know where the toys are kept at their grandparent’s homes and ask their grandmothers for certain cups and foods. The boys run and play with their cousins as if it is a weekly thing. So, how exactly have we made this happen? With these tips…..
1. Talking about family a lot! We talk a lot about our families. We discuss what is going on with them in their daily lives and show them where they live. When our boys were toddlers/pre-schoolers we used to show them pictures and talk about who each person was and how they were related. This is very helpful so that children know who everyone is when you do visit.
2. Have a Skype account. Being able to SEE our family over the last seven years has been amazing! We personally don’t use Skype because we have Apple’s version of iChat but it is all the same. Our families have loved being able to watch our children grow up and not just see pictures but actually live things. Like our youngest when he learned to walk and both boys learning to talk. My mother used to just like to watch them even if I was busy doing other things. Virtually babysitter if you will.
3. Make home movies or photobooks. Every year we make a home movie. I know they are watched over and over again. This has given our families the chance to watch our boys at all their stages of life as many times as they wanted. Also, for the boys they can watch them and be reminded of who everyone is and see that indeed they do know these people because there is video and pictures of them together.
4. Send lots of cards and care packages. Being here in the lower 48 we have sort of gotten away from this one but I know come January we will start up again. Letting the kids pick out cards or little trinkets of the foreign place will help them feel like they are sharing their life with grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles. Oh, and don’t forget to include a color sheet or two. The families love those the best!
5. Keep lots of pictures of family all over the house. We have pictures everywhere! This isn’t so much because I enjoy the clutter (or dusting) but I because I like for our boys to see their family everyday. When a family visit was approaching we used to sit with the boys and show them who we were going to see. The boys when they were toddlers loved looking at the pictures and talking about their family.
6. Be overly excited for family visits. For me this is tough. I’m hard on myself and I want everything to perfect when family comes to us. For those visits where we travel, well, they are long and by the time we arrive everyone is done and tired! But, if you are excited and happy your children will follow suit. I’ver really had come to peace with not having the perfect house or knowing I will be tired after two days of driving because at the end of the day you get to see the people that are the most important to you…. Family!
In closing I want to share that mother and grandparents will be visiting this coming week and my house is far from perfect. However, I’m really okay with that because I truly am excited to see them. More so than I have been in a long time. It is most likely because I know that our time being close is dwindling and I’m sucking up as much as I can. My boys were so excited they haven’t been going to sleep at a good hour and waking up early. Family is a precious thing and I’m so lucky to have the relationship that with that we do.