Expat Parenting–Keeping the Grandparents involved

I stumbled across an article about raising kids far away from their grandparents on my twitter feed today (go here to read).

It got me thinking about how we have made the effort to keep Elanor connected with both sets of grandparents over the last year. Prior to our move we lived 20 minutes from one set and an hour from the other.  Both sets were very involved in Elanor’s life and saw her frequently.

Before we left

Before leaving the US we made sure that both sets of grandparents had computers that could handle Skype and solid internet connections.  There were also tutorials created in how to use Skype and any other technologies we thought they needed to know.

While in Singapore

While in Singapore, we use a variety of ways to keep our parents (E’s grandparents) involved

  • Social Media
    • While neither set of grandparents is on twitter, they’re both on Facebook.  Ravi and I have our twitter statuses re-post to facebook.
    • I post pictures on my facebook account
  • Blog
    • Obviously the blog gives the biggest window into our world and has the most frequently updated pictures.  Although neither set of grandparents comments, I know both sets read it daily.  Which helps when I’m less motivated to write.
  • Email
    • When we need to get ahold of a set of grandparents (such as Ravi’s who just did us a huge favor and sent an important package to us that will arrive today or Monday), email is the fastest way to do so.  When Elanor is a bit older, we plan to use email to let her write notes to her grandparents directly as well.
  • Skype
    • We try to have regular Skype dates for Elanor with her grandparents.  When the connection is good, it allows them to interact with her directly, and I know she cracks them up.  Last night my parents got to witness Elanor singing a mashup of “mr Sun” and “Puff the magic dragon.”

Visits Home

Although I have grown a little ambivalent about the 30 hour journey to and from Boston/Singapore, the joy that Elanor gets from spending time with her grandparents (and vice versa, of course!) makes it all worth it.

Since moving we have done a trip home about once every six months, and will likely try to squeeze in one more trip while I’m still safe to fly pregnant, and we are hoping for a trip home just after the new baby is born, to let them connect directly with the grandparents as soon as possible.  (Assuming I deliver here…if I deliver in the US, they’ll probably meet the new baby before Ravi and Elanor do).

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In truth I feel really lucky to live abroad in the age that we do.  I spent a month in France in 2000 (’99?), and back then most of my friends didn’t even have email outside of school (and if they did, a 56k modem was the fastest anyone had in their home).  Blogs, facebook, twitter, skype–none of that existed.  Being abroad was a far more isolating experience.  Being away for a month made me feel a bit lost in my friend’s lives–I had no idea who was dating who, what movies had just come out…none of it.

Today, while we do feel the strain of being so far from our families and friends (not being able to just get together, figuring out time differences, etc), social media and the technology of today allows us to stay far more involved in our friends lives (and they in ours).  When we go home, it’s far easier to just re-integrate into our lives, even after being gone for six months than I found it to be after only one in 2000 (’99?).

I think the important thing to keep in mind is that grandparents want the relationship with your kids.  Making an effort to keep them involved is worthwhile, and I see that every time I see my daughter with a grandparent.

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