Ask a Therapist: What Can I Do to Nurture Long-Distance Relationships with The Children in My Life?
At The Catalyst Center, we greatly understand the importance of attachment, not just between child and parent but also between child and grandparents, extended family, and other loved ones. In our mobile, modern day world, we oftentimes live far away from family and loved ones, or travel for work can take us away from family. It can feel especially challenging to form and maintain close relationships with small children from a distance.
It is now common knowledge that screen time is not ideal for children. However, here is a way that technology and screen time can greatly benefit our families! You may already utilize features such as Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or other forms of video communication. These forms of communication can be a very good way for families to maintain relationships and foster attachment. An approach to make this interaction style even more appealing for children is to incorporate the use of hand puppets! Stuffed animals can also work, but I prefer hand puppets because they have the ability to be more animated. Have every family member pick out a different animal hand puppet. Then, use that hand puppet every time you video chat with the child. The child can also have their own puppet if they want to. Sometimes children are shy about interacting on video and may find it easier to do so via a hand puppet.
The puppets can read stories, sing songs, or play games with the child over video chatting. Or the puppet can tell stories about what has been happening at the loved one’s house. The child will start to associate the puppet with the family member. Then, the next time there is a visit, have the puppet accompany the person when reuniting with the child. The child will remember the puppet with the family member and all of those good times and will be so excited to see the puppet and the family member! It can help to “break the ice” and alleviate some of those overwhelming feelings children can have when seeing a loved one they have not seen in a while. Give this a try and you might be amazed at how much more rewarding and engaging your interactions become!
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