Helping your toddler bond with grandparents and other relatives
Children’s first important relationships are with their parents, guardians, or other close caregivers, but having a strong relationship with grandparents or other close family members can be an important part of a child’s life as she grows. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and many others may be important pieces of your family puzzle. Encouraging close relationships between your baby and her relatives gives her a strong, robust support network for her to lean on and delight for the rest of her life.
For starters, grandparents and other close relatives can offer that spark of parenting energy or enthusiastic attention that may have faded from you after a long week, scooping your baby into their laps and reading a book with a little extra zest. A sleepover with a relative (when you’re ready, of course), can also be fun for your baby and rejuvenating for you from time to time. This can also help her develop her independence and comfort level with others.
Here are some ideas to help develop a bond with extended family members - near or far.
Every family dynamic is different, and how you choose to form these special bonds will be unique too. Staying in regular contact, and keeping your family up-to-date on your baby’s milestones, helps to set the stage for a loving connection that will only grow as your baby does.
- Visit: It sounds obvious, but it isn’t always easy. In a perfect world, you’d be able to schedule regular visits between your baby and her relatives, but that’s not always possible. If your schedule allows, and you’re within close proximity, try to make it a point to visit during a certain time each week or month. This will help your baby become a regular part of your relatives’ daily lives, and help your baby become comfortable with her relatives. If your family members live far away, arranging a visit when your baby is so young - especially if you won’t be able to visit again for a while - can feel like not enough to build a relationship off of, but it’s a great place to start.
- Manage expectations: Sure, you may know your baby’s just going to adore your brother when she is just a little bit older, but for now, Uncle Joe is basically a large stranger, and your baby will probably do best getting to know him if you let her stay close to you for a while first.
- Form traditions: If you’re not nearby, it can be especially important to develop traditions with relatives early on in your baby’s life, and carry them on as the years go by. This may mean visiting during the summer, or having Grandma come to your house for a certain holiday.
- Keep in touch: Technology makes it easier than ever to stay in touch with relatives who are many miles away. If you have tech-savvy relatives, check in with some video chats, or even just a regular call to say hello. Also, remember that little thing called ‘snail mail’? Drawings, cards, and the like are always appreciated and held dear to the heart. Sending letters “from” your baby, with her pictures enclosed, can help relatives feel like they’re not so far from her. They’re also a great way to catch your baby’s attention - who doesn’t love getting mail?
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