If you’re a Frisco transplant, you’re familiar with the varying degrees of homesickness, coupled with the responsibility to maintain close connections with family and friends who are far away. While life in Frisco is wonderful, for those whose families are not nearby, you might feel guilty that these loved ones don’t get to see your kids regularly. Sure, you can share photos of soccer games, birthdays and other special moments on social media, but how can we get more personal and creative about connecting with those far away, especially during the holiday season when it may not always be possible to visit?
While a lot of us utilize technology to support long-distance relationships (i.e. Facetime or Skype), there are still those who favor the more traditional methods (and some, like me, must resort to pen, paper and printed photos because some older relatives aren’t quite ready to go digital).
I reached out to some of my Mom friends who are transplants to the area and asked how they manage to keep relatives close in mind for the little ones when they are states, countries or continents away.
Pen pals via snail mail was a favorite idea amongst the Moms, particularly for those kids who are five years old and up. Some kids are old enough to maintain a pen pal relationship with their cousins or their grandparents, while others may still need a little bit of assistance. How special it is for either side to be waiting for that special letter. Including little lightweight gifts that fit easily inside of a letter or small package adds a little extra magic (stickers, candy and or original artwork). Nothing like a hand-drawn picture of grandma reading a story to a sleepy five-year-old to warrant a place on the refrigerator. This is also a relatively inexpensive way to keep in touch, and your local dollar store has an array of cute cards and colored writing paper to make it fun. One mom suggests,
Mail a letter, card, artwork or even a favorite poem or bible verse in the snail mail each month, on the same day of the month. If it happens to arrive early, the recipient must hold it until the designated day!”
You can take it a step further and create a personal photo calendar for the recipient to mark the week of the expected arrival of their letter. Countdowns are always fun!
How wonderful a feeling it is when you see that surprise box or package delivered from “home.” The excitement of opening it and finding goodies that you miss from your hometown… The place in your heart that leaps knowing a special loved one put so much thought into selecting your favorite items that you cannot get readily where you live.
One family keeps holds onto the care packages and letters that they receive from family to open when they’re on a Skype call together, so the other side sees the reaction in real time. If this isn’t possible with a great time difference (i.e. a relative who lives in another country) you can film a short video to share with them later. Grandparents appreciate seeing what everyone’s face was like in the moment!
Keeping photos visible around the house is important, as well as talking about who’s who with younger children.
My 3-year-old knows what color and kind of car my mom drives. If she sees one out on the road, she’ll point out ‘That looks like Grandmas car!’ – little things like that remind her of family that is not around.”
Another mom has dedicated a wall in the home where they place family photos and take time every now and then to talk about who is in the pictures. One friend explained,
We have a hallway we’re dedicating to pictures of ALL of our extended family. It’s a great reminder and if you have the space you can even turn the wall into a family tree.”
Books are always a wonderful gift between relatives. A personal note can be written on the inside of the cover. A lot of families have both given and received recordable storybooks to read over and over, where the children can hear the sender’s voice reading their favorite story. “Under the Same Moon” was a firm favorite among the Moms I talked with, but there are a lot of wonderful options at your local Hallmark store.
Set up a playdate with another transplant family at a local paint-your-own pottery studio such as Color Me Mine in Frisco, and get messy making a unique gift. The kids will enjoy putting their own handprint or other creativity on a set of coasters or a mug to package and send to family and friends who are far away.
Sending and sharing photos of course either by post or social media is always popular but you can also take it a step further. One mom suggested making a photobook which includes all of the relatives and call it “Who loves (child’s name)?” and each page states the relatives name – “_____ loves you.” My daughter loves that it’s about her and the repetition and rhythm of the text is an added bonus. She can name all of the people and then, in turn, I found she was more familiar with each relative when they or we visit in person.
Snapfish, Shutterfly, Mixbook, and Picaboo are popular for this and I also recommend keeping an eye on Groupon, who offers great discounts with many of these companies. All of the local stores like Walmart, Walgreens, Costco, and Target also offer these services now online with quick turnarounds, making it a great last-minute gift. One mom says she makes photo books to capture one specific family event when everyone was gathered, e.g. Christmas or Summer Vacation with cousins. Or you might do a year in review!
One mom created a daily blog with lots of photos and stories of what the kids were up to. That way the extended family could keep up with her busy boys and feel a part of their childhood milestones. Daily, monthly…whatever you have time for. The site can be interactive, with the loved one on the other end leaving comments on the posts.
If your schedule is just too busy to accomplish some of these ideas, believe me, I hear you. Just keep it simple and set up a telephone date for the same time each week or month with long-distance friends and relatives. It will already be a priority on your calendar and will demonstrate to your children the importance of family. Your consistency will mean a lot to the loved one on the other end.
Without putting too much pressure on yourself, make an effort to keep your loved ones close, and special memories alive for the little ones. In my conversations with other moms, they all agreed that kids’ memories are quite vivid, and with a little effort, they’ll continue to talk about their grandparents and cousins with love and enthusiasm. It’s busy being a mom, but we should never take for granted those we love while we have them.
What other ideas can you share? If this is your first year in Frisco and you’re far away from your dearest loved ones, please share with us any holiday traditions you plan to incorporate to connect with those you can’t be with this season.