When you move overseas you inevitably leave family behind. That, more often than not, includes separating your children from their grandparents with more miles than you’d like. However, living in different countries doesn’t mean your children won’t get to build a good, loving, healthy relationship with their grandparents. It’s more about effort than it is about distance.
Not all grandparents live within spitting distance of their grandchildren. But the physical distance doesn’t have to mean that the relationship isn’t close.
Many of us have made long distance relationships work. Long distance relationships require commitment and creative communication to keep them strong. The ties that bind family are based on comparable principles.
Keeping the relationship between our three sons and their grandparents is complicated at the best of times. The closest grandparent they have is a 90-minute drive away. Two sets of grandparents live overseas. Both my parents and my husband’s parents are divorced and three of the four are remarried. You can imagine the relationship web involved.
But these two factors, truth be told, are not critical when it comes to the success of the grandparent/grandchild relationships.
We have learned that geography is not the deciding factor as to whether or not family ties are strong. Simply put, it comes down to wanting to be a grandparent.
My children have a great bond with their British grandparents, despite living in a different country hundreds of miles away and only physically seeing each other every couple of months. However, they have no relationship whatsoever with their grandmother who lives in the same country an hour and a half away by car.
My three sons get very excited hearing about their New York-based uncle but wouldn’t know their local uncle if they fell over him in the street.
So, as was the case during my own childhood, distance is not a deterrent when it comes to my children’s relationship with some of their extended family. In fact, long-distance relationships are made easier these days by modern technology and tools.
Whilst it’s not ideal living hundreds or thousands of miles away from family, close family bonds cannot be broken by geography. A grandparent who lives in your doorstep is not automatically a close family tie. An uncle that lives twenty kilometers away yet has no desire to be an uncle cannot compete with an uncle nearly six thousand miles away who cherishes his nephews.
Whichever way you look at relationships they need effort to flourish. A relationship has to be two-sided. Physical distance can be bridged if both parties want the relationship to work, make the relationship fun and derive pleasure from being in contact.
Our family is living proof of that.
This post was originally published on The Good Men Project entitled Grandparenting Across the Miles.