Good times with family over summer holidays

The great Amazon toy search. I found myself at it again this Christmas as I looked online for gifts my three children, ages 2, 4, and 6. My husband and I had already purchased the gifts that our children had said they wanted – you know, the big items that Santa brings; things they have been waiting on all year to receive. But now it was time to gear up for the holiday tradition of swapping gifts among their cousins – eleven in total.

So I searched. I rigorously searched for toys for over an hour trying to figure out what they might like. Once I narrowed down my list, I asked myself, “will this toy – which I’m not sure if they really want in the first place – bring them joy?” Maybe, maybe not. Is the toy needed? No. Do I feel like I should be asking our family to buy them a toy that I think they might want, but I’m really not sure? Definitely not.
The toy search – which should always be fun – was not fun at all. So I gave up.
I gave up and I announced to our families that the kids did not need any more gifts for Christmas.
What we preferred instead was to have a video call with them on Christmas. Less money, more heart. Less stress, more meaning. This is – and will be – the way to go from now on.  At Christmas time, children don’t need more things. They need to know that people love them. And what better way to demonstrate that love than with the simple act of interaction.  If you live far away from your loved ones, here are five ways that you can connect with them meaningfully:
  1. Exchange photo books. Last year, we used a fantastic service called ChatBooks to create photo books for our family. ChatBooks is great because it can automatically turn your Instagram posts into photo books. The standard size photo books are small and inexpensive, making them great for children to enjoy. Our children loved looking at what their cousins had been up to all year in America. They also recounted memories of our time back in the States with family over the summer. They looked at the books over and over again throughout the year. The books are like the gift that keeps on giving.
  1.  Organize an ornament swap. Two years ago, we purchased some inexpensive craft ornaments on Oriental Trading. The kids were able to write their names on the ornaments and we sent them to our cousins, who sent us some in return. It was such fun for the children to hang the ornaments and see each other’s names on the tree. Even as we pulled out the ornaments this year, the kids smiled and enjoyed thinking about their cousins at home. This creates a feeling that our families are close during the holidays, even if they are a world away.
  1. Set-up a video call. This is our current-year plan. We’ll connect with our cousins via Skype or Face Time on Christmas. This is not something the kids do all the time, so it will certainly be special for them. Being able to see facial expressions, share excitement, and see families as a whole is so much fun. Often we do not take the time to do this during the year because of our busy schedules. The time change between the U.S. and wherever we happen to be (Thailand, Poland) makes it even trickier. Planning it ahead of time gives the kids something to look forward to.
  1. Send something hand-written or hand-crafted. If your children are old enough to read, sending and receiving handwritten letters can be so gratifying. If you and your children are crafty, why not create paintings for your family members. Or perhaps bake them some special cookies with a note? What about a scrapbook of summer time fun that they spent together? The possibilities here are endless. Sometimes the old-fashioned way is the best way to go.
  1. Plan a meet-up.  What could be more meaningful than visiting with your loved ones during the holidays? Spending quality time with those we don’t get to see often can really solidify relationships. Our children have always lived far from their extended family members, but we always visit the U.S. each summer. Family is also very good about visiting us during the year, no matter what exotic locale we happen to be living in. Why not choose a location and meet half-way? This could create great adventures for everyone.
So what are your plans to connect with family this holiday season? Share in the comments!
This is an original post by Loren Braunohler written for World Moms Network.

Loren Braunohler

Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don't ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleeping even more. Loren blogs about her family's international adventures and parenting at www.toddlejoy.com.

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