A few years ago, I was living overseas and found it increasingly difficult to feel included and stay part of my niece and nephew's lives. Time flies past so quickly, and the game that was really fun the last time I stayed? By the next visit they didn't even want to know.
Since then, I have come up with some activities to make sure we stay close to each other even if we may not always spend as much time together as I would like.
Here are some ideas you might find helpful for keeping up with your nieces / nephews / grandchildren if you are not able to see them as often as you would like either:
Small children can really struggle with phone-calls and video chat. As frustrating as it may seem, though, each time you call and try to chat to them builds a little bit more familiarity, and the consistency will pay off eventually. You can eat lunch with them, show them the wildlife near you, or play peek-a-boo to engage with them.
Now that my oldest niece is 5, she will happily FaceTime me on her own from her parents' phones or iPad when they let her, and can chat away about what she has been up to and any exciting things going on. It is a lovely feeling to know that I am the person she chooses to dial when she has something exciting to talk about, and we feel really connected even when far away.
A shared folder, such as Dropbox or Photostream, can be a great way to stay in touch. It is common for families to share lots of photos and videos of what the kids are up to for aunties, uncles and grandparents to see - but it can be just as rewarding for kids to see what you are up to too!
Sometimes taking things offline can help you to feel even closer to each other. When she lived in Singapore, Sorcha gave her nephew (who lives in Germany) a scrapbook so they could feel more connected while so far apart. She sent postcards and photos of all the things she was doing for her nephew to collect and keep in his scrapbook (and receiving 'real' post was a highlight for him!). When they next saw each other it didn't feel as though nearly as much time had passed and it was a fun activity to go through the scrapbook together.
Books are a great way for children to learn about new things in a fun environment. If you live in a different country you could send books that will help them to understand what it is like. My friend Jenni from The Bear and the Fox blog puts together really handy lists of books around a theme that her children have enjoyed reading.
Tip: A great place to buy books like these is Books and Pieces - Amanda also writes a blog on the website, which gives more great ideas and tips.
Don't be that one aunt that always sends wildly inappropriate gifts - either far too young or far too old!
If you don't live close-by it can be really hard to know what gift will actually work, particularly when they are young. If you are stuck for ideas, have a look here at our handy guides for kids up to 5 years old.
Do you have any other tips to add to the list? Please leave them in a comment below - I'd love to read them!
"This is my Knitting Auntie."
That's how my eight year old nephew proudly introduced me to his friends recently. He's almost right. I'm his Great Auntie and knitting is my superpower.
Here are 20 facts you might not know about us (Beth and Sorcha)!