Living far from family is hard, especially during the holiday season. We may live in locations that are far from where we grew up for various reasons: job opportunities, lifestyle choices, proximity to our partner’s family, or financial reasons. For most of us, it’s a mixed bag of emotions to know that the families we grew up with are not physically close to the families that we have created.
The Weeks Leading Up to the Holidays
It can take time to make new friends and form a sense of community when you move to a new place, but it can be especially difficult during the holiday season. Luckily, having children can also be the key to meeting new people quickly, and as they jump into new activities and sports, your family is also immersed in a ready-made community as well.
Even when you have fully adapted to your new home, the holidays can bring up a lot of nostalgia and memories that can make the most wonderful time of the year a bit less wonderful. The holidays are about magic and family and traditions, and when loved ones are missing from that equation, parents feel the weight of it. Though many of us are fortunate enough to be able to travel back to our childhood homes or have visits from family members, the holiday season is made up of more than just a single day of celebration.
This is especially the case with children as the holidays encompass weeks of parades, concerts, parties, and special events. Although you may have the opportunity of spending time with family on the big day, there are so many moments that still feel incomplete when living far away. There may also be some holiday traditions that are native to the specific area where you grew up, and as much as we might try, they can’t quite be replicated in our new communities.
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Amanda lives in Colorado with her husband and two children, and her childhood home is in New York. Here’s what she shared:
“I love the holidays. Now that I'm the mother of two young children, I get great pleasure from making the holidays special for them: the perfect Halloween costume, dancing along with the Rockettes during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, baking Christmas cookies and delivering them to our neighbors. I hope I am creating memories that will last a lifetime. But regardless of how much fun we have, I always carry a bit of sadness in my heart because I can't help but think about how I wish I could share more of these special times with my parents. Not only do my children deserve to have their grandparents around for these holidays, but my parents deserve to have their grandchildren close. By living across the country from my parents, I feel like I'm robbing them of a close relationship with their grandkids. My parents are amazing and they deserve to have that.”
Creating New Holiday Traditions
For many families, they may alternate spending holidays with one part of the family versus another each year. The new traditions and close relationships with other family members and in-laws can ease feelings of sadness and loss during these special times of year. Spending time with your in-laws during the holiday season can also help you relive your own childhood memories in a new way.
“Experiencing first hand the family traditions of a significant other makes you reminiscent of your own family traditions and the memories they bring.” -- Lauren, a mom of two who lives far from her family but near her in-laws
Spending time with in-laws can also expand your feeling of family and fill the void of missing your own childhood holiday memories. Also, watching your children create their own memories with family regardless of which family members they are can be extremely special.
“Growing up as a child, the holidays were so special to be with my parents and my brothers, especially during Christmas. With my brothers so far away in Ohio and Seattle, it’s definitely difficult to see each other and share traditions. I feel so blessed though that my in-laws all live in New Jersey and when we visit them for the holidays, it feels just like home!” -- Kim, a mother of two in Massachusetts
Tips for Living Far From Family During the Holidays
Fortunately, living far from family members during the holiday season doesn’t have to mean the end of traditions and close connection. Technology allows us to interact with family members regularly no matter where they live. You can count down to a special day with daily or weekly Facetime or Skype video calls with relatives. You can also text videos of children’s holiday performances, your kids opening gifts, and more.
Help your children experience the magic of sending letters and art through the mail to family far away. Their excitement in mailing and receiving old-fashioned letters can bring a magic of its own.
Keep your own childhood memories alive by telling your kids stories of your holidays as a child. You can even make photo books of your own holiday memories or transfer old home videos to digital formats to relive those special times with both your childhood family members and your children.
Although living far from family comes with challenge, it is also an opportunity for new experiences, family visits focused on quality time, and recreating childhood memories and forming new traditions. When we parent without family nearby, we are never truly without them. Our childhood families are in our hearts and part of who we have become as parents. Our homes and locations may be far, but the strength of family ties will always be with us.
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