I think the hardest thing about living overseas was the distance from family. I had nephews and a niece that I had never met and who were growing up without knowing their cousins. My boys never had the opportunity to sit on Grandma's lap for a story, or go for a ride with Grandpa. The distance felt bigger and bigger the longer we were overseas and the older our children got.

So how do you bridge that gap? How do you stay connected with family far away? Here are a couple things we did . . . but this list is very short and small. Please add your ideas in the comments below!

1) Skype or other form of video call. Maybe this one seems obvious, but make sure you use it! Although my boys couldn't cuddle with Grandma, they always looked forward to seeing her "on the video". They would show their newest Duplo creations, talk about what they've been doing, even sing songs and read stories together over the video. We also did things like set the laptop down on the floor so they could watch the baby crawl. If your little ones aren't used to interacting over the computer, it might take a couple times to get used to it. But if you do it regularly, they'll soon look forward to it!

2) Picture book of family. My mom made a cute pocket-size photo album of with pictures of each family member, with words that could be read to the boys as a story. "My name is David. This is my Mommy. This is my Daddy. We are a family." It had pictures of each family member holding David as a baby, pictures of the whole family together, and so on. It was one of his favorite books for a LOOONG time - and even when it got knocked off the favorites list, we continued to bring it out at key times when we wanted to talk about our family in America.

3) Videos of everything. You can't be on Skype all the time, so I'm glad we have video on our cameras and on our phones. Baby's first steps, the children playing in the rain, a two-year-old explaining how something works - videos record those moments that family can't be there for. You can also record yourself singing Happy Birthday to a family member, or giving a special message. There are apps - like WhatsApp - that are great for quickly sending pictures, voice recordings and videos from your phone. Or you can upload to a shared folder in Dropbox or GoogleDrive or something like that.

4) Lists of favorites, sizes, special treats, etc. As your children grow and change, it's hard for those far away to keep up with everything. What is their favorite color? What animals are they fascinated by? What size clothing do they wear now? If you send a list of favorites, treats that would be special, toys that you would like them to have, etc, it really helps loved ones to know what kind of gifts to send. How well I remember the disappointment of receiving a special package (which cost so much shipping in the States AND so much customs in Ghana!) only to find that it contained three kinds of candy that none of us like. We tried to eat it out of obligation, and ended up throwing it away. :-( How much better to give your loved ones a list to work from, so that they can be confident you will appreciate the things they're sending.


Now it's your turn - how do you stay connected with your loved ones?




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