Children’s first important relationships are with their parents, guardians, or other close caregivers, but having a strong relationship with grandparents or other close family members can be an important part of a child’s life as he grows. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and many others may be important pieces of your family puzzle. Encouraging close relationships between Baby and his relatives gives him a strong, robust support network for him to lean on and delight for the rest of his life.
For starters, grandparents and other close relatives can offer that spark of parenting energy or enthusiastic attention that may have faded from you after a long week, scooping Baby into their laps and reading a book with a little extra zest. A sleepover with a relative (when you’re ready, of course), can also be fun for Baby and rejuvenating for you from time to time. This can also help him develop his independence and comfort level with others.
Here are some ideas to help develop a bond with extended family members – near or far.
- Visit: It sounds obvious, but it isn’t always easy. In a perfect world, you’d be able to schedule regular visits between Baby and his relatives, but that’s not always possible. If your schedule allows, and you’re within close proximity, try to make it a point to visit during a certain time each week or month. This will help Baby become a regular part of your relatives’ daily lives, and help Baby become comfortable with his relatives. If your family members live far away, arranging a visit when Baby is so young – especially if you won’t be able to visit again for a while – can feel like not enough to build a relationship off of, but it’s a great place to start.
- Manage expectations: Sure, you may know Baby’s just going to adore your brother when he is just a little bit older, but for now, Uncle Joe is basically a large stranger, and Baby will probably do best getting to know him if you let him stay close to you for a while first.
- Form traditions: If you’re not nearby, it can be especially important to develop traditions with relatives early on in Baby’s life, and carry them on as the years go by. This may mean visiting during the summer, or having Grandma come to your house for a certain holiday.
- Keep in touch: Technology makes it easier than ever to stay in touch with relatives who are many miles away. If you have tech-savvy relatives, check in with some video chats, or even just a regular call to say hello. Also, remember that little thing called ‘snail mail’? Drawings, cards, and the like are always appreciated and held dear to the heart. Sending letters “from” Baby, with his pictures enclosed, can help relatives feel like they’re not so far from him. They’re also a great way to catch Baby’s attention – who doesn’t love getting mail?
Every family dynamic is different, and how you choose to form these special bonds will be unique too. Staying in regular contact, and keeping your family up-to-date on Baby’s milestones, helps to set the stage for a loving connection that will only grow as Baby does.