Long-distance communication can be tricky. Yes, this mostly refers to romantic relationships, but it’s also difficult for kids when family members are far away. Whether it’s a grandma in another state, a nomadic uncle, or a sibling away at college, keeping the family close is hard. Kids carry emotions with them, as they don’t often know how to truly express their feelings.
As a parent, you likely want your children to feel supported and connected to the entire family. And because children grow up overnight, holding on to the early memories are even more precious. Even if your little one doesn’t say it outright, there are noticeable signs when they are missing their relatives. This could look like crying at dinner when a sibling isn’t present or getting upset when a grandparent isn’t there for a holiday.
Thankfully, technology now allows for even the farthest of relationships to remain close. If you feel your family is stretched across multiple time zones, then keep reading. Here we’ll provide some tangible ways to keep the whole gang close no matter where everyone is physically located.
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If your children are old enough to be asking for a smartphone, then this tip is super relevant for you! In today’s digital world, it seems that the appropriate age to give your kids a phone is getting younger and younger. That said, this is a difficult situation to navigate. You want your kids to be able to call when necessary, but you don’t want them to get sucked into their phones.
If you are concerned about your child’s relationship with their far-flung family, getting them a safe smartphone can be helpful. This way, they can call grandma when they would like without asking you first. When looking for a safe smartphone, make sure it has security and privacy features. After all, you want your kids to start learning responsible phone habits.
Some smartphones such as Troomi have software that allows parents to monitor and even further customize their child’s phone experience. This can be beneficial if you are worried about how long your child is using their phone. No matter what safe smartphone you decide on, know that connecting to family is just a call or text away.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the power of video calls. While adults may be tired of Zoom work calls, kids love seeing anyone on the digital screen. After all, how many times have your kids bombarded your important meetings? That said, if you have family members far away, it can be beneficial to schedule regular video calls with your kids.
Platforms such as FaceTime or Google Chat allow children to pick up on social cues and absorb information via the screen. Unlike starting at a video on YouTube, video calls are interactive. Children must respond to what the individual on the other side of the screen is either doing or saying. Studies show this interactivity can benefit a toddler’s learning behaviors and speech patterns.
For best practice, make sure you as the parent are fully present when the call is happening. You can help your toddler with technical issues. Additionally, it reminds your little one that connecting is important for you as well. If your child is a bit older, try to just be in the same room as your child for support. You can be there to intervene if a relative starts to ramble or veer into topics that are not appropriate for kids.
Snail mail is underrated. We all love getting cards or packages in the mail, but when was the last time you put pen to paper to write one yourself? While sending greetings is common during the holidays, it can be incorporated into your routine year-round. Getting your kids involved is also a great way to spark creativity and independent crafting.
Sending mail can also help children who are missing a loved one. Give them the space and materials to craft a special card. If they are old enough, suggest they write a full letter. Again, this can help with learning behaviors while also providing them the opportunity to connect independently.
If your family member is up for it, ask if they will write a letter or send a card in return. This can brighten up your child’s day. Additionally, it can also help families who are feeling more disconnected due to the pandemic. A simple greeting or note can help a long-distance relative feel closer to your kids.
If your family is spread across the country or the world, know there are plenty of ways to stay connected. While your kids may be sad they can’t see relatives as much as they’d like, they can contact them in other ways. Calling on the phone, scheduling a FaceTime, or even sending a card can help kids express their feelings. And remember that when your entire family can see each other in person, the gathering will be even sweeter.