We do our best to make sure that relatives are an everyday part of the boys’ lives, even relatives who we do not see as often as we would like. These are some of the ways we keep in touch and stay connected:
We buy two copies of a picture book, one for my in-laws and one for our house. They are then able to read the book to the boys, either over the phone or over video chat. My son turns the pages in his copy, and comments on the pictures to them. We recently didIf You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Numeroff.
Personalized Photo Book.
I created a book with pictures of several relatives, along with captions describing activities the boys enjoy doing with each family member. I used colored construction paper in various colors, glued 3-5 pictures of one relative to each page and wrote a simple sentence for each person. Then I punched 2 holes in the paper and bound it with colored yarn. We keep the book on our coffee table for easy access. I made mine, but most photo websites will let you create a sturdier version (check out Shutterfly or Snapfish).
In addition to the book, we also have pictures of family and friends throughout the house, including on our refrigerator. We frequently point to different people, and talk about who is in the pictures, when we last saw that person, what types of things we do with them, and when we plan to see them again.
My older son creates so many paintings, crayon or colored pencil drawings, magazine cutout collages, and sticker designs. I (usually) don’t have the heart to throw them out, so instead I pack several art pieces into manila a envelopes and send them to relatives. This is a tangible connection to his daily activities. Sometimes I write a little note with his comments as he was creating it, or I try to at least write the date.
When my in-laws come, we have a winning formula. My father-in-law always wakes up early and buys a ridiculous amount of bagels and my4 year old’s favorite cream cheese. My 4 year old is usually awake by the time Grandpa returns, and he plays with his grandparents while we sleep in. (Of course, my husband and I are the main beneficiaries of this routine!) My son associates morning bagels with his grandparents, and he looks forward to this when they visit. Having the routine helps to let him know what to expect, especially when he was younger. His grandparents also appreciate the time alone with him. (My baby is a late sleeper).
Yep, geography. While we’re not quizzing our kids on the location of the Tigris river, we like to tell them about the cities and countries where close relatives live. For instance, my 4 year old knows his aunt and uncle live in Dubai, and we show him where that is on our globe, and talk about what life is like there (foods, customs, weather). Not to say that he totally gets it, because he did tell me the other day that Dubai is part of the USA…
Videoconferencing has been great. My mother-in-law plays clapping games with both boys on video– pattycake and Ladushki (a Russian game) are favorites. We can also bring the laptop into any room, so they can play and bring his toys or art or books over to show them. Now that we have FaceTime, we do it on the go.
These are some of our ways to stay in touch. If you have any others, I would love to hear about them in the comments.