How does your child build a bond with grandparents who live thousands of miles away?
Grandparent time for children of expats isn’t Saturday afternoon at the allotment with grandad or helping grandma make cakes for a couple of hours while mum does the shopping. There isn’t much of staying in dad’s old room or rebuilding mum’s fort in the hedge over the summer. And as for stopping by for a cuppa, or watching school plays or being present at the Christmas table, none of these are likely to be regular occurrences.
My parents visit once a year or so, and we visit them when we can, and although they’re now retired and able to stay for a month when they come to us, if my daughter is to bond with them we need to be more proactive in our approach–ideas don’t just develop organically over time as children grow and new interests are discovered when everyone is forced to bond in an intense four week period. To make the most of that time we try to think of ways we can be relaxed and enjoy each others’ company, but we also like to Do Things that leave tangible memories of time spent together.
My mom has a special talent with a sewing machine in that she can make about anything you can think of including cuddly toys, elaborate pageant costumes (not for me, I hasten to add), jeans and wedding dresses. So she thought she’d dust off the brand new sewing machine sitting in my cupboard and teach my daughter how to use it by making something together.
You already now what they made, that cool pillow up there! It involved a lot of discussion then cutting up and measuring out and planning and more measuring and more cutting and lots of sewing and more planning and more sewing and finally several of my husband’s old work shirts rescued from the charity bag turned into my new reading pillow! I love it. I especially love the clever use of the buttons on the back a the pillow case fastener.
And now my daughter will have yet another cool thing to share with her American grandma, remembering this most recent visit every time she sees the pillow.
What do you do to help your children bond with their overseas grandparents?