“My, oh my! You must have grown at least a foot since I’ve seen you last!”
As military families around the globe prepare to travel “back home” for the holidays, their extended family members may be shocked to see how much your children have changed. Depending on their age, it’s also possible your kids may not remember certain relatives you only see every year or so. It can be heart-breaking for all parties to hear your child say “Who’s that man?” or “Who’s that lady?” to a near and dear member of your extended family.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you and your military kids navigate the extended family scene this holiday season.
Talk to Your Family Ahead of Time
To avoid any hurt feelings during your visit, it might be best to talk to your family ahead of time about any potential snags you may run into. For example, you may want to contact the host of your family’s annual holiday bash a week or so before you arrive. Explain that your children may not remember everyone they met in the past and might forget names and faces. Ask that they pass down that message to everyone attending before-hand, and that it doesn’t mean your mil-kid doesn’t care. It just means your child might get a bit overwhelmed trying to remember everyone all at once. They may have had a great time playing with their cousins at last year’s party, but it might take some time to get them reacquainted again this year.
Re-Introduce Familiar Faces
Your extended family is most likely the foundational structure of where you came from. It’s important for your children to learn about their heritage and their family, as well. It may take a while for your child to warm up to Aunt Mary if they’ve only met a handful of times. Use this next meeting as an opportunity to facilitate a conversation by asking Aunt Mary to tell a story about the family. As your child learns a bit about the history of their extended relatives, they’ll also learn about Aunt Mary and where she fits into the family.
Foster Relationships Between Your Child and Their Extended Family
Before your holiday visit is over, make a plan for your children to stay in touch with the relatives they only see once a year. When children are younger, they rely on their parents to help build and maintain relationships with people they don’t see very often. Communication is truly a two-way street. Set up weekly or monthly phone calls with the grandparents. Keep a photo book of all the relatives and look it over every couple of weeks to keep your family’s faces familiar to your children. Schedule video chats with their cousins every now and then. Ask Aunt Mary to write a letter once a month with a story from her childhood.
No matter how you choose to keep in touch with your family “back home,” staying ahead of the game this year will help make it easier on your mil-kids the next time you visit for the holidays.
What does your military family do to stay connected to extended family? Leave your tips in the comments!