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Nurturing Relationships From Afar

expat life expat mums expat parenting expat parenting abroad Nov 29, 2021

We feel so torn. While we work really hard to meet new people and create new connections when moving abroad, we also work really hard to maintain the relationships we have back ‘home’. 

So how do we maintain those ‘home’ relationships with family and friends?

I know from the clients I work with, that many of us feel like we are the only ones making any effort. And while that may be true for some people, does it really matter? So what if you’re the one who always phones, as long as you are talking and connecting, it really is a small price to pay. 

Put it in perspective, I used to think that when we moved abroad we were ‘out of sight and out of mind’. I don’t mean it as a negative thing, just that family and friends are busy with their own lives. They don’t stop and think of us when that song comes on the radio. They don’t stop and think of us when they see a familiar flower. They hear it and see it all the time. It’s us who have those little reminders, and us that feel that emotional pull. That was until I read Helen Ellis’ book Distance Grandparenting >>click here<< I have a different appreciation for what it’s been like for those left behind.

Thankfully, there are brilliant tools available that make keeping that connection easy, including free online video calling through WhatsApp, FaceTime among others. 

So instead of getting sad, when you hear that song playing, send a quick message “hey, just heard xxx and I thought of you, miss you x!” I often leave voice messages instead of a text message, this is really easy to do. When I see that familiar flower, I take a pic and send it, “this made me think of you today”. If you take the time to do this, you know your family and friends will appreciate it, and it will literally warm your heart to feel that connection.

To help your kids feel connected, talk about family often. At the moment I am loving Facebook memories, and each morning showing the girls who they were meeting and spending time with x years ago! When at home I have loads of photo albums, and we often talk about our favourite memories of different people. 

It can be super fun to arrange an online playdate for your kids. When Miss J connects with her little bestie from Delhi they literally take the phone into their rooms and compare books and toys. It is so sweet to hear them chatting about what their favourite is, and ooohing and aaahing over each other's things!

For birthdays I take a little video of the girls singing Happy Birthday and send a video message to friends and family. Sometimes I send a recording from a few years ago as a bit of a throw back too, it can be rather amusing as their accents seem to change slightly with each move!

In addition, I often plan an ice breaker when we go home to see cousins. For example, at Christmas time I took a gingerbread house for them to assemble and decorate together. After half and hour it’s like old times again, but it helps them to find that space. 

So when you’re moving abroad recognise that it is hard, but there are loads that you can do to make staying connected with friends and family back home easier. While it may be a little effort, it is totally worth it!

I know with the pandemic, many of us fear not having the opportunity to see loved ones when we want to. To help you I have created a cheat sheet with ideas for nurturing your relationships from afar, download your copy at www.expatparentingabroad.com/relationships 

How do you stay connected with home? Please do share your tips, together let’s make the transition easier!

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