When I was 25 I moved to Toronto for work, leaving most of my family behind in Newfoundland. Having only one sister with two young nephews, I struggled with the thought of not being around as they grew. I would have to miss most of their birthdays and many of the important moments in their lives. I worried that we wouldn’t be as close because I live in a different province.
I’m not the only person who’s felt this way. There are many aunts, uncles, grandparents, even parents that maintain a long distance relationship with a young loved one. You don’t even have to be that far away. Even having an extremely busy schedule can make it tough to be as present in their lives as you would hope.
This very problem is what inspired me to create Hey Rocco and seek out creative ways for adults to create special memories with children they don’t get to see that often.
Along the way I’ve learned a few tips that I hope will help you improve your relationships. Some are easier to follow than others, but if you take even one idea from this list that helps you get closer with your favourite little one, that’s totally worth it.
So here goes, the 10 tips to help you stay connected with a little loved one are:
Get familiar with Facetime or SkypeWhenever possible, you should always try to video chat. Get familiar with your iPhone’s facetime feature or download a free version of Skype. Whatever tech you use, it’s easier than ever to chat face-to-face with family. In fact, when infants are exposed to social interactions over video chat, they not only learn new words and behaviors more effectively, but also begin to develop social relationships with their on-screen partners -- that’s you!
To make the most of your calls, be sure to have materials at your side – storybooks, musical instruments, whatever you plan to show the child so he/she doesn’t lose interest. And don’t forget that they can now see you, so use hands gestures, funny faces and games like peek-a-book.
Lastly, remember that video chatting doesn’t have to be a major event. A quick, spontaneous chat can be a fun way for distant grownups and children to feel close to each other.
Find something in commonHaving great relationship with a little one is much easier when you both share something in common. It provides a topic of conversation, a reason to check in, and something special that only the two of your share.
You can bond over a shared favourite sports team, television series, musician, even books by a particular author. In fact, that’s one of our favourite things about Hey Rocco. By sharing Rocco with a little one, you get a special friend in common and something to chat about every month!
Send a monthly “What’s New?” text
This is a quick, easy way to get bite-sized updates on how your favourite little one is doing. Depending on their age, you can text them directly or their parents, to find out the latest news. Making a point to check in on a regular basis will at least keep you up to date on the big things that happen in between. Some specific things you can ask about are:
- How are they doing in school?
- What sports or activities are they currently interested in?
- What’s one exciting thing that happened this month?
- What’s one funny or cute thing that happened this month?
- Are they looking forward to anything coming up?
- Have they made any new friends?
Calendar in major eventsSet reminders to reach out during important events like birthdays, holidays and other major milestones. Many of these are also great times when you can send a gift or potentially plan a visit. If you’re not a big calendar person, try a service like BirthdayAlarm.com that will send you email reminders and gift ideas when these major events get close.
Always have something to look forward toAlways try to end a call or visit with something to look forward to. It could be as simple as planning your next phone call, or something exciting like a trip to the zoo. Having that next event planned will help ensure that you’re keeping in touch and building excitement while you’re apart.
Send a care packageCare packages are an awesome way to show a child that you care. Children love getting mail, even if it’s just a simple letter or postcard. Remember, they don’t get junk mail or spam like we do. Cratejoy offers a number of awesome subscription boxes that make great gift ideas. Their marketplace even includes Hey Rocco!
Make a traditionTraditions are a great way to create a lasting bond with a little loved one. It could be something simple like always going sledding after the first snowfall or carving a pumpkin every October. Whatever traditions you create are yours alone and create something special that only the two of your share.
Share a private online photo album
Pictures are a terrific way to stay connected with children and watch them grow. For iPhone users, Apple offers a terrific feature where you can share photo albums with family and friends. It also sends you a handy notification whenever a new photo is added and lets you add comments and reactions.
There are bunch of options out there when it comes to photo sharing online, but one of our favourite is TinyBeans, a private family photo sharing app. And of course, Instagram and Facebook are also great choices :)
I hope these tips give you some practical ways that you can create a meaningful relationship with a child you don't see that often. If you have any other tips to share, please post them in the comments section below!