Raising kids without family nearby doesn’t have to be as scary or impossible as it sounds. With these practical parenting tips, you’ll be able to raise healthy and happy children while strengthening their relationship with extended family.
I grew up in a home where the nearest grandparent was several thousand miles away. My father came to the U.S. from England and my mother’s family were several states away..far away.
I knew I wanted to be closer to my family when I had my children so they could experience the joys of having Grandma and Grandpa nearby. Well, this wasn’t God’s plan for my little family.
Instead, I found myself with a colicky baby, a husband in school full-time, I was working full-time, and no family to nearby to call for help. I thought I was going to lose my mind! I was scared…terrified…and I questioned my abilities as a mother and wife.
I’ll keep a long story short and let you know that several years have passed since that day. My little family is growing and I’m still several hundred miles away from my parents.
Yes, raising kids without your family nearby sometimes stinks, but, I have learned some practical parenting tips that have strengthened our home and has built my children’s relationship with their grandparents.
And truthfully, this has been a huge blessing.
Parenting Tips – Raising Kids without Family Nearby
Take advantage of the technology we take for granted each day. Our family has a tradition where every Sunday you will find us FaceTiming or Skyping with Grandma and Grandpa. The calls are not terribly long (they usually last 30 minutes on a good day with the children’s attention spans).
And the children look forward to seeing Grandpa make silly noises while poking his nose and they love twirling for Grandma in the living room. I know you might be thinking, “but it’s not the same thing!” And you’re right, it’s not.
But, having the children take the time to FaceTime with their grandparents have strengthened their relationship with them. The children LOVE seeing their grandparents when we are blessed to travel and visit in person. They don’t have the “STRANGER-DANGER” fear associated with their extended family members.
2. Share Family Stories
Tell your children stories about Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Joe, Aunt Mary, and any other family member you can remember. I would encourage you to not only tell the embarrassing and silly stories, but also the ones where family lessons were learned, forgiveness was extended (or held back), and be completely open and honest with who their family is and the lessons that can be learned by being in this family.
The purpose of sharing family stories isn’t to gossip but to build relationships. If there are family stories or experiences that are too personal to share or aren’t appropriate for your child’s age, then don’t share them. Use wisdom in all that you do with your children.
3. Write Letters
Encourage your children to write letters to their grandparents and cousins. The best way to do this is to set aside an hour or two once a week and have everyone pick who they want to write to. Be sure to have envelopes ready to be filled.
If your children are too young to write, let them draw a picture instead.
At the encouragement of my parents, I began writing to my grandmother at the age of 5. Almost 30 years of letter-writing later, my Nana is one of my dearest and best friends. Even though I have only met her a handful of times, I have learned so much from this incredible woman.
4. Family Vacations
When you plan your family trips (if you’re traveling to where your family is nearby), take advantage of your location and go say “hi!” Another possibility is to plan your family vacations to where your extended family lives. This allows everyone to meet and for grandparents to spoil their grandchildren.
5. Bloom Where You Stand
But what about those times when you need help and you don’t have the family nearby? Who are you suppose to call to come watch your child or help with a project?
I encourage you to bloom where you stand and build a support system. You can do so by becoming involved in your community through attending church, volunteering, and involving yourself with those around you (such as neighbors or becoming friends with the parents of your child’s friends).
Be willing to smile and put yourself out there to say, “Hey, this is me. Let’s be friends!” Don’t be afraid to allow yourself and your family to find happiness in what might seem like an unfortunate situation. Yes, it sucks to not have grandparents close, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy where you currently are. Give yourself permission to be happy.
As you “bloom where you stand” and put yourself in the community, encourage relationships with the elderly and your children. I’ll share an example from my family’s life.
There is a sweet elderly man in our church who my son adores. This man reached out one day and told my little boy he loves his shiny shoes and congratulated him on taking the time to shine them. (The only thing my son shines his shoes with is mud, but we make sure his shoes are clean for church).
Ever since this elderly man reached out and said hello, he is the first one my children run up to at church to give high-fives, hugs, and talk to before saying hello to their other elderly friends.
This same man had a birthday not long ago and our children drew him cards and we made him a layered jello dessert. It’s the seemingly small things that can build healthy relationships. Your children don’t have to wonder what having a grandparent nearby is like because they can adopt their own.
As you become involved, look for those elderly folks who need an extra hug or a smile to brighten their day. You will never go wrong in doing good.
And, as you take the time to focus on the activities and choices that you can control as you raise your children without family nearby, you will begin to see a strength and bond grow between your children and their grandparents (or adoptive grandparents), especially as they grow older.
Do you live far from family? What are some of the things you do to help strengthen your children’s relationships with them? Share with the community in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!