by Katherine Wood
When grandparents and other family members live far away, children can feel disconnected. Here are some ideas and strategies to keep that all-important family bond close and growing:
Video Chats – Free computer apps such as Skype and Facetime are possibly the most effective ways to keep in touch, because you can both see and hear each other, which can help kids stay interested longer. Katie Carey, of Nashua, N.H., uses Skype to connect her 3-year-old daughter Becca with Katie's sister, Emily Dowd, who lives in Rochester, N.Y. “Emily has used Skype to read bedtime stories to Becca, share dinner with us, bathtime and tea parties. It is really special that Emily gets to share those things with her even though she is so far away,” Carey says.
Phone Calls – The nice thing about phone calls is that they can be impromptu. If your child mentions his or her Grandma, then give Grandma a call and let them talk with each other. It reminds your child that she is always available, even if she isn’t right there.
Share Photos – Create a family blog to capture your photos, or upload photos to a password-protected photo site, such as Picasa or Snapfish. I try to send an email once a month to both sides of our family, including the best photos of the kids from that month.
Facebook – If both you and your faraway relatives have the social networking site Facebook, this can be a quick way to upload photos or post something sweet that your child said. Older children may have Facebook accounts of their own and can keep in touch with relatives on their own.
Letters and Packages – Children of all ages enjoy receiving mail; they also enjoy sending mail. Have your child make something, even just a simple drawing, and send it on its way.
Talk About Relatives – Children learn where they live. Include your faraway relatives in daily conversations by recounting funny stories, or simply asking “I wonder how he or she is doing?”
Schedule a Visit – While technology has its place, nothing is a substitute for in-person visits. Even if those visits are infrequent - due to distance, time, or cost - they create wonderful memories which sustain the relationship across the miles.
Visit these websites to learn more about online resources for keeping in touch:
• Video Chat – www.skype.com and www.apple.com/mac/facetime/
• Photo Sharing – www.picasa.com and www.snapfish.com
• Facebook – www.facebook.com – for sharing photos, regular updates and public or private messages.
• Grandloving – www.grandloving.com – is an ideas and resources website created by Sue Johnson, Julie Carlson and Elizabeth Bower, authors of the book Grand Loving: Making Memories with Your Grandchildren.
• Readeo – www.readeo.com – allows you to read a children's book together while also video-chatting.
Katherine Wood is a freelance writer and mother of two in Stow. Her husband's extended family lives in New Zealand.