If you have been following this blog for a while, you probably know that our little family lives an ocean away from our extended families. And that we miss them a lot specially since Anya came to our world. It is important for us that Anya grows up loving this extended family of hers who love her like she’s their own. Because of this, since the start, I have been trying to find ways to keep Anya connected with them.
Here are some ways that have helped.
We always used to videocall/Skype, but it was only once Anya was born that it became a routine in our lives. She started responding to their voices very early on and 6 month onwards she even had silly head nodding games she would play with them on it. For babies and young kids, being regular is the key. I hear a lot how some kids don’t like to talk on Skype, but don’t give up so easily. Do it often and slowly I’m sure you’ll notice them opening up. Of course this also doesn’t mean that they will always respond, there will be times they wont want to talk and that is totally okay.
Anya talks to her nani, dadi, khalas, phupos, taya1 and cousins regularly on Skype. Now as she is almost 2.5 years old, my sisters can literally ‘baby-sit' her online, while I get something else done. It is a routine for her to open Skype and click on each of our loved ones that she routinely talks to, and decide who she wants to talk to on that particular day. Right now as I type, Anya is 'playing' with one of her khalas1 on Skype :)
Talking about your families with them.
Anya was a little shy of 2 years old on our last trip to Pakistan so when we came back I would repeatedly remind her of the things that our loved ones used to say, those special ways they would use to talk/connect with her. Repetition works a lot with younger kids. As kids grow older you can tell them their stories, your memories of them, any funny or interesting stories about them. Or even include their characters in their favorite stories. This is also a great way to tell them about family members that have passed away and gives them a chance to still know them. Bilal tells her stories of her dada1 sometimes, and shows her pictures with it. And my heart swells up when Anya recognizes my dad in pictures and immediately says Nana1.
I also always point out when Anya wears something given to her by one of our families or even friends actually, or when she plays with one of the toys that were gifted by them. I hope it will be another way to know they love her and to feel connected to them. Anya, now loves to tell me that any dress she is wearing phupo ne diya hai, ‘Phupo1 gave this.’
If you haven’t made a family picture display wall yet, I say now is the time :). Even though we don’t have a proper photo wall yet, we have a slideshow of pictures of our families running on a digital frame in our living area and Anya loves standing by it and pointing out the names of everyone she sees.
You can also make photo albums or photo books of your times with them and make an activity of going through them on a lazy weekend. I also put up some pictures of Anya with our families on a wall in her room, so she can look at them whenever she wants to.
I have a habit of making videos and editing them with a simple soundtrack. So I put these on for Anya sometimes, specially the ones from our trips to Pakistan (They’re also a good break from the endless cartoons they can watch) Even if you don’t do that, I’m sure you make lots of cellphone videos and that can serve the same purpose. Kids love to watch the same videos over and over again.
Here are a few other ideas,
- Celebrate their birthdays/special days even from far. Telling your kids what you’re celebrating and maybe even celebrating with your own little cupcake? I shared about long distance celebrations once before, Check that out here.
- Involve your kids in gift shopping for them/writing cards/making packages for them.
- Remember each of your loved ones by name, when you say duas or prayers at bedtime with your kid.
Cellphone pictures from our last trip to visit family. Edited in Pixlr.
Do you have any other interesting ways to keep your kids connected with loved ones that live far away? I would love for you to share your ideas.
Thank you so much for reading.
Urdu has specific words for both maternal and paternal side of relations. Nani: Maternal grandmother, Nana: Maternal grandfather, Dadi: Paternal grandmother, Dada: Paternal grandfather, Phupo: Dad’s sister, Khala: Mom’s sister, Taya: Dad’s elder brother.