Military Child~ Building Relationships with Family

I wasn’t raised the military way. I grew up in the same city as my grandparents, and for a while, the same city as some of my aunts and cousins. I saw my grandparents all the time! From them stopping by for coffee, us all having dinner together or the outings we took for birthdays, seeing them at our church for plays I was in, or choir performances. There is no way for me to share just how much I saw my grandparents. My cousins I didn’t see nearly as much, but there was a time that we saw a good amount of each other. We knew where each other’s homes were, and what the connection between our family was, and when it came to decorating the tree for Christmas at grandpa’s home, well, that was always fun! Even with the family that wasn’t really around we were still close with. My cousins on my dad’s side we would see one to two times a year and got along great. We had relationships with a lot of our family.
When it came to church and friends, I still have the same friends I grew up with! The church was the same my whole life (except for one year when my parents tried moving us all to another state… That didn’t last). I know the city I grew up in, in and out. I know the restaurants and churches and shopping places. I know many of the people.
My children; they don’t have that. Any of that. And this is true for many military families. For the most part you move every 3-5 years, some more often and some less often but that is the average. So every 3-5 years your children have to make new friends, have to learn a new area, a new routine, attend new churches, and some have to be the new kid at school all over while others have to find new homeschool clubs. Yes, they may know of the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, but they don’t really know them. For some that isn’t a big deal because they are social bugs and they can do that. For others, as much as you know they are family, it’s not until the end of the visit that you are back to being comfortable with them. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to be close to people you don’t see that much as adults, how much harder is it for kids? Not many, if any, holidays and birthdays are spent together. When you know something about your family and then a year later you see them again only to find all these changes, it hits kids hard.
When your child asks you why their friend’s grandma is always at their home or why the grandma goes to the same church as they and why doesn’t hers, yes you give the answer of “we live in different states because we are a military family”, and so on. Our children don’t really get it. They understand the facts but they don’t really understand the why. It’s so hard on them. One day they will get it; one day they will understand but today, their little hearts just want their family. Their little hearts want “normal”.

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As a family we all need to work hard to build and maintain relationships with those in our family who can’t be around much. This can’t be a one sided thing or it won’t work. So if the relationship between family is at all important to you and something you wish your children to experience, then lets put in the time and effort to help teach them how. Here are some ideas.

1. Phone calls! Let and encourage our kids to call grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Let them share their day to day life with them and teach them to learn how to also listen. Sure at first this can be a little tricky but they will get used to it, you did didn’t you?

2. Letters! Did you know that hand writing stimulates the brain? It helps with fine motor skills and the thought process. It also help some pour their heart out and be real. And everyone enjoys getting a letter in the mail!

3. Skype! Thank God for Skype! Yes it has issues from time to time but to be able to see the person your chatting with miles away is worth the issues! Kids can show off their art projects and get the reactions right away! Family members can join in singing Happy Birthday without even being there! What a great way to build those relationships!

Building these relationships have to go both ways, kids won’t always think to start the conversations and they really won’t continue if they are the only ones pursuing it. The adults in their lives need to be actively building relationships with them and not just expect them to start it.

How important are these relationship to you?

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Do you have other ways of building long distance relationships with family? I would love to hear them!

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40 thoughts on “Military Child~ Building Relationships with Family”

  1. I haven’t tried to use Skype yet, but that is a good idea. Thankfully in this digital age it is so much easier to stay connected with family and friends far away. We are not a military family, but we do have family farther away that we only see every once in a while. I think I will also have my children start writing letters, especially now that they are learning to write. Thanks for the great tips!

  2. I’m on the other side. I didn’t grow up with hardly any family, seeing them a couple of times a year, we always had a blast, but never were close. Now, I try everything I can to make sure that my kids see their family as much as possible. We even moved to make it happen. I agree with all of your tips.

  3. I am a new mom and love these ideas. when I was younger I used to love writing letters to my cousins and my grandma who lived in Wisconsin! Of course, this was before email and Internet. 🙂

    I would love to teach my son to write letters and call relatives often. That way he gets to learn good communication skills!

  4. It is so true that much of the success in staying connected depends on how much effort you put in to make it happen. My family lives in another country, on another continent, so even visiting more than once a year is costly and difficult (12-hour flight with a 3-year-old, anyone?) However, we manage to stay connected with Viber, Skype, Facebook, etc. We make time to chat at least 3 times a week, and we are so used to this, we can’t imagine not doing it!

  5. I’ve reconnected with some of my cousins thanks to the internet. I wish I could find my favorite Uncle, but he doesn’t want to be found. Sometimes family is what you make it. A lot of our ‘family’ is by choice, not by blood.

  6. We aren’t a military family, but we have moved a whole lot! Including 3 different states and more towns than that. We try to visit my family every summer. We call/text/Skype the cousins and also write occasional letters. My Mom also has made some fun games so my kids know everyones names. For example, personalized Go Fish with everyone’s pictures. So fun!

  7. Great ideas! My daughter is an only child and most of our family is on a different coast. It’s definitely challenging at times but we do the best we can to maintain those relationships.

  8. First of all, a BIG THANK YOU To your husband for serving our country! You have great suggestions for families who move around due to jobs like serving in the military, being a part of a newspaper or a college coach. I have friends with husbands in each of those roles and they all move frequently – sometimes every year!). I will share your ideas with them, for sure.

  9. I wasn’t near my grandparents (but not because of the military), so I don’t really “get” what others share in a relationship with theirs. Our daughter gets to see hers almost once a week, so it will be interesting to see what her relationship with them ends up like.

  10. I don’t know where we would be without Skype or face time. In my entire relationship with my husband, he has lived far away from his family, and now that we have our daughter – we are so adamant about staying in touch with her grandparents and Uncles/Aunts/Cousins. Frequent face time sessions, and very frequent texts just to catch up with the day to day, has really kept us close, despite the distance.

  11. This subject is so near and dear to me as well. I grew up across the country from my extended family for many years, I was never super close to them and always wanted to be. When we moved closer I got a little closer to them but still not extremely close. Because of this I have made family from friends – I don’t believe family is just blood, especially because the blood relatives I have (in particular my biological father) did horrific things like abandon family and just everything opposite of what a family should do. My husband is about to transfer our of National Guard into active duty and we will be moving (I’m 99% sure at least) and I am struggling that my kids won’t be close to their grandma. My mom isn’t always stable and there have been times when I think it will be good to get space between them but I’m also nervous. I’m grateful for the opportunities we will have and that my kids will make families our of friends – that they will be open inviting people and will love all those around them not just their relatives. I see my cousins that lived by each other all their lives and they just seem so closed and like they are missing so much – I’m not saying they are I just know that my life has been so enriched by the experiences I have had “adopting” and being “adopted” into families around my family (mom, sister and myself). I am so grateful for skype -it’s how my husband witnessed the birth of our son while deployed to Afghanistan so I know we will make good use of that, as well as e-mails and phone calls. Hopefully there will be vacations to see family and hopefully my kids will learn the value of loyalty and love – not because they have to because they are related but because they choose to be because they genuinely love those around them. I love your blog and will probably be on here entirely too much the next upcoming months at least! I will probably be asking for a lot of advice too lol!

  12. I can relate to what you are sharing! I grew up with wonderful memories of colorful aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Our rich family gatherings colored my sense of self and enriched my world, so I can just imagine how children who move constantly may miss that. On the other hand, military children have the blessings that come with having chances to experience other people, diverse cultures and they learn to adapt to new situations and new people, which is quite a valuable skill. I’m so glad to read your thought-provoking perspectiv.

  13. People have to work really hard to keep that connection in the family. I know that. My mother moved to another coutry when I was 20. Me and my sister worked really hard to keep that intimate and close relationship we had before. I do prefer Skype from the 3 options you mentioned, it means a lot when you see your loved one’s face!

    http://thinkingbeautyblog.blogspot.hu/

  14. We only live an hour to 2 hours from our closest family members but sometimes it still feels like we live 3 states away sometimes. I keep in contact through text message and facetime if we don’t see each other. It’ll be cool when my kids are older and they can write to their cousins. 🙂

  15. I use every form of communication I know how.Our family recently moved about a 12 hour drive away. I love writing letters, but don’t mind texting. I am just getting exposed to Skype and of course emails. Visiting from time to time is great but we cannot do that often.

  16. Thank you for sharing this thoughtful article. Although we are not a military family, my daughter and her family live 8 hours away from me. We do our best to stay in touch, but you have given me some new ideas. Have a Fabulous Day!

  17. Great ideas! We don’t live near my parents, so my girls don’t get to see them (or the cousins on that side) as often as we would like. Before I went back to work full-time we would take a couple of weeks during the summer to go back and visit. Now the girls are older and schedules busier… I do talk with my mom a few times each week, and update her on the goings on with us. My parents send cards and gifts for birthdays/holidays, so the girls do have some connection with them. I should make a point to write letters, as everyone loves getting “real” mail! Thank you for the list of ideas!

  18. This is a great reminder. My mom was a military child and her family lived all across the country. After they settled, they were finally able to have the stability they always wanted. I love your suggestions on how to stay in touch with loved ones. Although I’m stationary, I think it’s great to stay in touch with family. Thanks so much for this great post!

  19. It’s wonderful to maintain those family relationships, no matter how far apart you are. My grandmother wrote me letters once a week when I was away in college and now that she’s gone, I really treasure those letters. None of my older relatives were tech saavy enough to Skype, lol. But my grandmother’s best friend, my Mother’s godmother, emails our family quite frequently. We send photos back and forth and keep up-to-date with each other’s lives without the time zone issues of phone calls or Skype.

  20. My family keeps connected through Facebook. I have cousins and aunts and uncles four hours away in Kansas City; and there are cousins and uncles and aunts scattered across the USA.
    We get together occasionally: anniversary parties; weddings; funerals.
    My son and I went to a 50th Wedding Anniversary party last year and he told me that we should all be wearing name tags because he couldn’t keep track of aunts and uncles and cousins! And to top it all off, there was English being spoken with the majority of the family and friends speaking Spanish!
    My family on my mom’s side is planning a reunion in the summer. I hope we can go and visit!

  21. We, thankfully, live close to a good portion of our family & make trips to those that don’t live close by as often as possible. But, I have many friends, as do my children, that don’t have family close by or have moved a good bit and had to leave friends behind. My son’s good friend left with his family as missionaries to another country, so we are very thankful for things like Skype where they can chat with each other and keep in touch. Its sad, I think, the world we live in where even a lot of non-military families also have to move a lot for jobs. I have never taken for granted having my family, friends I grew up with and the area I call home be my home for so long!

  22. This is a great list. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to move that often. For older children, Facebook can be a wonderful way to stay in touch with friends and family. I am so thankful to all the military families who give up so much for this country.

  23. I grew up in a military family, you make some great suggestions. Technology has improved so much since I was a child (no Skype or Face time). Children are fortunate to have so many ways to connect and know their family and friends.

  24. Family is so important and such a treasure! Not only is distance an impact for military families and children, but also families and children of Ministers. I agree with all of your tips especially phone calls and letters. For my family that lives cross-country, we really like FaceTime on our Apple products. We also have a family Shutterfly site for sharing family pictures of use the share pictures features at local stores such as Walgreens, Wal-mart, etc.

    Nothing though can ever replace face-to-face or a hug; so it is very important to make the most of the time when family does visit and enjoying every single moment!

    Thank you for this post reminding us to use our resources to reach out and touch!

  25. Technology has certainly made it easier to stay in touch! Texting (when I can’t talk on the phone) and FaceTime (when I can) are the 2 ways I’ve been able to keep in touch with loved ones. I grew up in a military family – through Facebook I was able to reconnect with friends I’d made (and lost track of).

  26. I love skype!!!! We are a military family and wish we were closer to my husband’s family than we are. My family has always been scattered through out the nation. Facebook, letters, ecards, skype, and Vsee are GREAT!

  27. We were a military family, but my father was in the Navy but we didn’t have to travel all over, I think I would have gone crazy if we did. I remember my dad used to bring me the fabergé eggs, they were so pretty and colorful. Also the coins from different countries, once had one from Turkey, thought it was funny, being small and not knowing that it was also a country not just food.

  28. My son is a Marine so I know all about this life. I have two grandsons that I might get to see twice a year if I am lucky and I miss them all the time. They are growing up so fast and we have missed so much of it. That makes me sad but this encourages me to try other routes to get close to them.

  29. It is super important for my wife and I to keep in touch with our families. We are lucky enough to live in close proximity to most of them. I do have family that live a couple states over that we stay in phone and email contact with. I couldn’t fathom not being in contact with my family. My heart goes out to all the military families and the courage that they have. I have friends who are in the military and I honestly don’t know how they do it.

  30. I am from a military family also. But I was a surprise baby and my dad retired when I was in elementary school, so I got to enjoy not moving around. But I live very close to other military bases and I know the struggle you have. I love the tips you shared! Being proactive about keeping connections to family is so important and can make such a big difference.

  31. I grew up the same way that you did, and I loved it actually! Right now my daughter has that as well, but we have been seriously discussing moving to another state for different opportunities. The one thing that is holding my back is the fact that I don’t want my daughter growing up and not being close to family like I was as a child. It’s a very hard decision! I am glad that you offered some solutions to help kids still be close to family and friends! If we do move I will definitely be using some of these methods! Thank you!

  32. The art of letter writing is beautiful. It is often forgotten but it is a great way to connect with family and build your child’s writing skills. We may be moving soon and I am going to keep all your tips in mind. Thanks so much for sharing.

  33. Goodness! I myself have noticed that all my friends (and of course family) are in different states. We’ve been at this new base since October and I still have yet to find anyone I truly connect with. This makes me more thankful for the friends and family who do reach out to me even more precious.

  34. First & foremost, I applaud all of the active & retired servicemen & women as well as their families for their commitment & devotion to our country. I, too, was raised like you with extended family close by in a small town with close ties to grandparents on both sides, as well as numerous aunts & uncles, & cousins galore. However, I moved away from college on & lived several states away when I had my first child. After about a year, we moved back to within a 4-hour drive. That was wonderful because it took just a weekend road trip to see the fam in my hometown. Then my son was born & the visits were about once a month on average, which was better than a couple times a year before. But I still was jealous of my friends who had parents & family right in town to help out. As I became a single mom with a 2- & 4-year-old, that would’ve been even more helpful. Yet that’s when my parents moved from my IA hometown all the way to Vegas. What a game-changer in many ways! Thankfully I had support from friends & further strengthened my independence muscle. When my kids were 8 & 10, we took the opportunity to move here to Las Vegas & now we have them in our lives almost daily. We’ve always used technology & photos as a tie to whoever in our family isn’t nearby. I would add that making a custom photo-book is a wonderful way for little ones to stay connected to far-away family members. Best of luck through your future moving phases!

  35. Writing letters are a great way to connect with family. It is a win-win for everyone. Children are improving their writing skills while connecting with family. Letter writing is a lost art. Thanks for attempting to bring it back. I appreciate your share.

  36. 6 years ago we moved our family away from our entire extended family, and it is hard to keep relationships strong. We have great intentions, but with the busy life of 3 active bots, we often don’t follow through like I’d like. The older my kids get, it does seem a little easier, as they are able to make phone calls themselves.

  37. I have thought about this so much!! Yesterday I cried saying good-bye to my nephews and niece because you never know when you’ll see family again and they will be so big next time I see them. It hurts so much to know that they may not remember me….or if they do it will just be the name, not the relationship they remember. My parents will miss so much of my son growing up and it kills me. I didn’t expect it to be this hard! lol And that isn’t even considering how it will affect our son himself as he grows up and gets older. I hope and pray that we will be able to maintain strong relationships as well as we can from a distance.

  38. I didn’t grow up Military but we did move about every 2-4 years. There were several summers that my siblings and I spent staying at my grandparents for a month or so, and those are some of my favorite memories and really cemented my relationship with them. At the moment we only live about an hour and half from both my parents and in-laws, which is unbelievable, and my girls still LOVE to send them letters and things they have drawn and then they get to open the mail that the grandparents send to them. They cherish those notes from their grandparents. The little things can sometimes be the best!

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