How Do You Maintain Relationships with Your Loved-Ones Whilst Living Abroad?

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Yesterday, Australia, like many countries around the world, celebrated her Mums. For weeks beforehand, streets were adorned with banners, shop windows were filled with gift suggestions and the TV was littered with advertising. You’d have to live under a rock to miss the fact that Mothers’ Day was on the way! Amidst the whirlwind of consumerism, however, there was one advertisement that stood out to me. In handwritten capital letters, the TV screen in my gym spelled out, “ALL YOUR MUM WANTS FOR MOTHERS’ DAY,” long pause filled with emotive music, “IS YOU!” Boom! There you have it. The Truth!

As one who has lived far away from my Mum and Mother-in-Law for a number of years, this advertisement struck a chord – what about those people who can’t be with their Mums on Mothers’ Day? As the treadmill ticked over, my mind was wandering down a winding path…it’s not just Mothers’ Day but many other family days throughout the year. What about when there is an illness or sudden emergency? What about the birth of a niece or cousin? How do families living abroad foster meaningful relationships between their globally mobile children and the Grandparents? How do adult children maintain relationships with their aging parents? You can see, I was clearly not focused on my running!

 Research shows that one of the main reasons families return to their passport country is due to aging parents. Prior to this decision though, there have usually been years of managing relationships with loved-ones from a distance. In our family, we made a concerted effort to ensure the Grandparents visited us in our host country so they could realistically imagine us in our day-to-day lives. I know this is not possible for everyone thus highlighting the importance of ‘The Home Visit.’ Although exhausting, they are vital for fostering and maintaining relationships. Technology was a lifesaver. Thanks to the likes of Skype and FaceTime, we could chat with Aunties & Uncles from time to time and quick 5-second videos provided hours of entertainment as Cousins learned to walk, talk or swim. On the topic of Mothers’ Day, we maintained our passport country’s dates for celebrating Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day, partly so we wouldn’t forget (!) and partly to ensure yet another connection with family was maintained.

If I’m honest, however, I think we could have done better. It is easy to get caught up in the daily adjusting and living in a new host country and because the person is absent, they kind of get overlooked. I don’t mean that we didn’t care, we certainly did, and do, but we knew they were OK. Everyone at home was healthy, active, living life to the full whilst we fumbled our way through transitions and made the most of the incredible opportunities available to us during that special time in our family’s journey.

But I wonder – what do you do to foster and maintain relationships with your extended family whilst living abroad? Can you please share your tips with us in the comments section below? If you are the one keeping the homes fires burning, what do you do to maintain those relationships with your family abroad? Please share your tips too.

Also, could I please ask you to take a moment to complete this online survey being conducted by an associate of mine in the global mobility world? Very little has been researched and written on the topic of caring for aging loved ones from another country or culture. The goal of this survey is to gain more insight into the true complexities of caring for aging loved-ones from a distance.

Thank you in advance for sharing your wisdom…and belated Happy Mothers’ Day to all those amazing Mums, past and present! Our global community thanks and salutes you.

Photo Credit: My own – a photo of my Dad’s hand being held by my son.

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2 thoughts on “How Do You Maintain Relationships with Your Loved-Ones Whilst Living Abroad?

  1. Thanks Bellamonte for sharing your techniques for maintaining relationships with your loved ones. I love your idea of the annual movie. In a similar way, we have created albums for our children’s Grandparents each year. They take pride of the place on their coffee tables and are certainly well worn when we see them the following year.

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  2. A beautiful picture! I can say that I have still a very close relationship with my parents. After 8 years living far away I can say that we managed to maintain our relationship quite well. Technology is a huge help! I don’t know how families did it only 10-15 years ago. FaceTime and Skype are basically free. I use a lot of WhatsApp, it is very common in Germany. We even have a “family group” on WhatsApp, so you can share pics with many loved ones at once. In the beginning of our time in the States we had a Skype phone and I had a monthly plan for calls to Germany. I only paid $4.95 and could call people back home for as long as I wanted. You can also use Skype to go and use your cell phone minutes to call 9 people you have on your Skype to go short dial list. But they add some cents per minute now. It’s still pretty cheap. I personally do not use facebook to stay in touch with family members. You can also start a blog just for family and friends. I did that the first 3 years being here, but then got kind of lazy. One of my personal favorites is an annual movie that I always make for christmas. It is full of all of our year’s highlights and although you don’t always get a feedback I heard from a lot of people back home that they love seeing our life abroad. Will try to fill out the survey, too.

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