Ever have times where you think things were much easier 100 years ago? Families lived in close proximity and we didn’t have to raise our kids alone? It’s so easy to glamorize the past – but I for one love indoor plumbing and electricity. I also love my kids to be connected to their extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more.
What’s a mom to do when life keeps us moving so fast and the miles separate us from loved ones?
Here are a few things I do with my kids to try to build those bonds across the miles:
1) Make the commitment to visit. It’s not always convenient, but it’s important. My kids can’t have a connection with my parents if they never see them. Connections take time, so you have to build it in. For my family that means a week at Christmas and ideally another week at some point during the year.
2) Plan that the time will be focused on connecting. That means hours of playing and hanging out. My kids have their rooms at both grandparents’ houses. They settle in the moment we arrive and feel at home because there is a place for them and their things. At my parents’ home my siblings and their kids spend hours during the week we’re home and my mom cooks lots of big meals. This enhances the chance for the kids to hang out together and get teased by their aunts and uncles. The kids don’t need an agenda. They simply need a time to hang out and connect.
3) Order the time so that you can have meaningful conversations. The other day that meant playing Monopoly with my nephew. Monopoly isn’t my favorite game, but it gave me a vehicle to spend time talking and connecting with my 14 year-old nephew. That’s priceless. We love games because they are an excuse to sit around a table and be together. Find that something for your family.
4) Look for moments you can have one-on-one time. My kids have 13 cousins on my side of the family. That makes for 17 kids running around when we’re all together. It’s organized chaos. We love every minute, but it means sometimes it’s hard to get individual time with the kids. So I have to be intentional about finding time. It might be playing a game and being ridiculous with my answers. It might be taking a niece shopping. But I want to build the time in so if they ever need me, they’ll know I care about them.
It’s true that modern life often has families scattered across the country, but if we make it a priority, we can still cultivate deep family relationships. Then our kids will know they are part of a legacy and have a heritage that is much more than simply them.
What do you do to ensure solid relationships between your kids and your extended family?