How to Raise Children Close to Family vs. Away: 8 Steps
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Managing extended family relationships has its challenges whether you live near or far.

If you're like most parents of young children, members of your extended family are going to be involved in your children's lives whether you live next door or halfway around the world. The question is how much they are going to contribute to raising the children. On the one hand, you need support; on the other hand, you need boundaries. Both needs can be challenging to manage, regardless of your family's proximity. The keys to successfully integrating extended family into raising your children are defining your expectations and communicating about them as needed.


  1. 1
    Ask for the help you need with childcare or other necessities -- even parenting advice, which your parents or in-laws will probably love to give. Depending on your family dynamics, this could be easy or difficult for you. If it's difficult, remember that you need a break as a parent, whether you work or you're at home with your child. When a family member agrees to babysit, be sure she has all necessary information about your child's health and safety and knows what to do in an emergency.
  2. 2
    Know when to say no. Nosy grandparents can meddle too much in their grandchildren's lives. If you have overbearing family members who use guilt and manipulation to get their way, you don't have to put up with it. Don't manipulate in return. As much as possible, communicate directly and respectfully with family members when you disagree. Best-selling authors and psychologists Henry Cloud and John Townsend explain how people with loving but well-defined boundaries tend to have healthier family relationships.
  3. 3
    Take the time to make meaningful memories. When you see family members regularly, you can easily take their presence for granted. You'll want your kids to remember holidays and birthdays or special trips when they recall their best memories with family.
  4. 4
    Find a regular support community in place of your family. This could be a church, support group, the neighbors on your street or another community organization. With strong relationships, you'll have more options when you need childcare or other help. As with family, make sure that any babysitters have the information they need to handle an emergency.
  5. 5
    Make a plan for regular visits. Depending on how far away your family is, spacing between your visits will vary. Let your family members know how often you're planning to visit so they can plan accordingly. Also be sure to work your plans into your budget.
  6. 6
    Invite your family to visit regularly. If possible, provide space for them to stay in your own home or at a friend's home. When they're in town, go on special outings to create meaningful memories for your children.
  7. 7
    Help your kids communicate regularly when they can't see their family. Video calls, phone conversations, social networking and even old-fashioned cards in the mail are effective ways to keep in touch.
  8. 8
    Maintain good boundaries about visits and communication opportunities. If your mom wants to stay for three months and you're not okay with that, try to negotiate a compromise that you both feel good about. Likewise, you don't have to stay in your in-laws' cramped basement for two weeks when you visit them. Communicate clearly and directly about your expectations, and you're bound to have more pleasant interactions.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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