Welcome to February edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama.
This month, participants have looked into the topic of “Fostering Healthy Attachment”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!
Our kids' grandparents live across the country from us, and traveling to see each other is feasible only once or twice a year. To maintain the connection the rest of the time with them and other distant relatives and friends, we rely on the following very modern techniques:
Video chatsAll you and your relatives both need is a working webcam, computer (or video-chat-compatible smartphone), and speedy internet connection. (What you likely need in addition is unlimited patience in helping your parents set up their webcam and connection, long distance, but that's a tutorial for another day.)
We've used a mix of Skype, Yahoo! Messenger, and Google Video Chat and Hangout. If you and your parents are in the U.S., all these options are free over an internet connection. I'm not sure what international options are best, but I know that even if you have to pay for a VOIP international call, it's usually much cheaper than standard telephone options.
The joy of video chatting for little kids and grandparents is that both sides get to see each other. Kids who would otherwise lose interest in an audio call can be kept captivated for longer by a moving image. My in-laws love to up the amusement factor by displaying their Snoopy animatronics and other bell-and-whistle gewgaws. Kids will also learn what their relatives look and sound like, which is a handy thing when they don't meet them very often. The benefits for the grandparents is getting to talk with and see their grandkids growing in ways still pictures can't convey.
VideosAlong the same lines, sending videos back and forth can reinforce those visual ties. We have a small camcorder (a Flip), and our phone has one as well. We used to try to get clever and cutesy with the editing, until we realized it was holding us back from posting things already. Now we just take a little, cohesive clip of something adorable (Alrik crawling for the first time, Mikko doing a magic trick), throw a title card on it, and post it to YouTube.
My parents get into the spirit by making JibJab videos, which crack Mikko up. You upload still photos of you and your relatives or friends looking face-on and then use JibJab's editing software to extract the heads. JibJab sticks them onto dancers' bodies in various music videos. Mikko still doesn't get that they aren't really us dancing. He makes comments like, "I don't remember when we were at that party," and "You're a really good dancer, Mama!"
You can post photos, status updates, and videos, and you can tag your parents or post on their wall to get their attention. Plus, it gives them the opportunity to comment on all the cute stuff you're uploading to show off what proud grandparents they are.
PhotosIf you have a digital camera or camera phone, it's easy to dump all your week's cute pictures up on a photo site like Flickr or Photobucket to share with your parents. If your parents are old-school and want prints but you're too lazy or cheap to mail them yourself (wait, is that just me?), you can upload them to a place like Snapfish or Shutterfly so your parents can order prints directly from the site.
Every once in awhile, I do print out some photos and actually mail them. That's always well appreciated! Lately, though, I bought a membership at Tiny Prints so that I'll remember to send photo cards at least six times a year. (That's an affiliate link, but that's totally true that I paid for a membership — I need the motivation! Plus, they add the stamps for me and drive the envelopes to the post office.) If that's outside your budget, a sweet photo-collage e-card (I like Smilebox by Hallmark) can be just as appreciated.
We also love to make a hardcover photo book every other year for each child and give them as Christmas gifts to our parents (saving one for us, too, obviously!).
Photo albumsSpeaking of photo books, we made a simple little album for Mikko as a baby featuring all his relatives. At first we had a soft squishy one made for the purpose of baby using it as a chew toy, but later I realized any "brag book"-size photo album that could hold 4x6" pictures would do. Sometimes I professionally printed photos to stick in, and sometimes I just ran them off on our color printer; quality doesn't matter to a little tyke so much as boosting the familiarity of these dear faces.
BlogsIt's free and easy to start your own blog, and for your family's sake, it doesn't need to be anything fancier than a repository of photos, your baby's growth stats, and hilarious things your kids have said. Older kids can run their own to record their thoughts and exercise their writing skills. Enable email subscriptions so each new post goes straight to the grandparents' inbox; that will make sure they see each post when it's hot off the presses!
Mass emailsI have a group contact list for all the email addresses of our parents and siblings. Whenever I want to alert the group to new photos, share news, or pass along a funny story, I just type in the group name and email everyone at once. I have yet to have a family member unsubscribe.
ArtworkMikko's favorite thing to do is make "decorations," and he recently fell in love with ceramics, which means we have frequent opportunities to send enchanting crafts to people who will highly appreciate them. Usually the only challenging aspect is figuring out how to finagle them for mailing!
Letters and packagesParticularly as your kids get older, you can encourage them to carry on a correspondence with their grandparents. Get some appealing stationery and make the experience fun by encouraging your children to write about anything interesting to them. Children too young to write can draw a picture that you caption for them, or dictate a story. Remind your parents to write back and suggest perhaps including small gifts like a sheet of stickers or a bookmark. As a fancier gift suggestion, my son loves High Five, Puzzle Buzz, and National Geographic Little Kids magazine subscriptions (I swear that last one isn't even an affiliate link; it's just bizarre), all from Grandma, which I remind him whenever they arrive at our home. You could even go more three-dimensional with a care package — maybe your little ones would like to help you bake Grandpa his favorite cookies or finger knit Nana a scarf. Everyone loves getting (good) mail.
Story readingsThis goes back to my much younger days, but I remember when my long-distance friends and I would record audio tapes for each other to send through the mail. You can carry on this esteemed tradition by suggesting your parents record themselves reading a storybook you have at home and send you the audio or video file. If they want to shell out some dough, Hallmark has recordable storybooks to buy.
Mix tapesYou want to suggest mix tapes aren't "very modern" technology? Well, the Brontës sure didn't have them. I remember my grandmother making a mix tape for my brother and me when we were little of their favorite folksy songs. For years, I assumed it was my grandmother and grandfather singing on the tape, a fact that greatly amused my mother when she found out. You and your loved ones could offer up an exchange of favorite music, so that thoughts of your relative go through your mind as you enjoy each other's tunes, although I'll allow it could be of the CD or mp3 variety.
There are a lot of enjoyable and simple ways to stay in touch even if you don't live near your loved ones. And these tips can work for grandparents and grandchildren or any other relation: favorite cousins (Mikko's the cutest stalker my niece has ever had the pleasure to know), parents who are service people deployed by the military, divorced parents who live distantly, godparents or other mentors, and anyone else with a kinship you wish to foster.
Be creative, follow your kids' interests, and make family connections fun!
How do you help your children keep in touch with distant loved ones?
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 24 with all the carnival links.)
- "Keep Them Close and Let Them Go: Fostering Healthy Attachment As They Grow" — Helen at Zen Mummy wonders how to maintain a healthy attachment as our children become more independent.
- "Honesty (With Your Children) is the Best Policy" — Mandy at Living Peacefully With Children shares how honesty with her children is helping to build an authentic relationship which will last through the teen years and beyond.
- "Fostering Healthy Attachment?" — Momma Jorje discusses how she is building a foundation of attachment with her children and how she hopes it serves them in their lives as they grow into adults.
- Beyond Bookend Parenting — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting describes their efforts to maintain their toddler's attachment to her working parent through play and routines throughout the day.
- Have You "Huggled" Today? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how "huggles" work like magic in her home.
- Your Childhood=Your Child's Childhood? — Amy at A Secure Base examines the research about how our attachment experience can shape our attachment with our children.
- List-Making Activities to Celebrate Family Connections — Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares some family list-making activities that will help you reflect on what you love about your family and can spark ideas for future family fun.
- How To Keep in Touch With Distant Grandparents — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers several tips to foster connection with relatives who live far away.
- Beyond Bonding: The Power of Positioning in Babywearing — Steffany, a babywearing educator, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, explains how optimal positioning in quality carriers can help babies' physical growth, brain development, and overall attachment.
- Playing Follow the Leader — Zoie at TouchstoneZ has learned that the more she meets her children where they are rather than where she would like them to be, the greater the elasticity of their bonds are.
- The Evolution of Attachment: Parenting Without a Roadmap — Sheila at A Living Family reflects on her family's recent generation of mothers and shares how she is working to make an evolutionary leap towards forming healthy attachment.
- Facilitating Sibling Connection — Laura at Authentic Parenting gives a set of pointers on how to facilitate sibling bonding.
- The Farm in my Bed — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses fostering children's healthy attachment to "lovies" and comfort objects..
because I looked up all the companies
to see if they had programs.
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