They say it takes a village to raise a child. For many of us, that village feels like it consists only of mom and dad. We're on an island — raising our kids away from the helping hands and guiding voices of our extended family.
When we live separated from parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles, it means parents are on the clock 24/7. There's no grandmother to call who can rush over to relieve mom or dad for an afternoon. There's no aunt who can babysit for a few hours so mom and dad can have a date night.
When you grow up surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, the support system is constant. Little League games, performances, and graduations are a family affair. I experienced that as part of my childhood, but since my career took me far away from family, my children won't.
There are things you can do to keep faraway family members close despite long distances, and there are ways to make more frequent trips.
1. Use Frequent Flyer Miles
Sign up for an airline program and make those miles count. Have close family members do the same. It's an efficient way to earn a free trips and get an extra visit with loved ones. The downside is you have to fly the same airline to earn points.
2. Go Wireless
This is a no-brainer. It's free and it's the next best thing to being there. You can download Skype on many smartphones and tablets so wherever you are, Skype can go with you. All you need is a decent internet connection to connect with out-of-town family.
3. Go Online
Set up a blog on a free website like Wordpress or Blogspot and post pictures and videos of your growing family. Your long-distance family can see the kids changing and experiencing new things. Even though they can't be there, they can at least keep up with what's going on.
4. Send Photos Home
With the click of a mouse you can send recent photos to a one-hour photo center where your family members live. If you're really generous, you can even pay for them. Grandma can frame new pictures of her adorable grandchildren to show off to her friends.
5. Build a Support System
Many rely on family for support. When they're absent, you need to find a local support system of friends, co-workers, and colleagues to babysit and listen while you blow off a little steam. Parenting groups, classes, friends who have children are a good place to start.
6. Skip the Presents
During the holidays, you can ask for a plane ticket home as a gift. You can also give the gift of air travel to your mom or dad. It won't be much to open but it will be a welcome surprise.
7. Avoid "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"
Even though close family members live miles and miles away, they don't have to be far from your hearts. Show your kids pictures of family members, talk about them, and call them often. This will help your children feel connected to their family and it will make the moments that you are together even more special.
8. Vacation Together
You can go home again. And again and again. When you vacation back home where your family lives, there are lots of benefits. You can introduce your kids to the sights you visited as a child. You can also ask family members to watch the kids and provide some much-needed date nights. The only downside is traveling to the same place year after year, but the family memories will likely more than make up for it.