Having spent a lot of time over the past few years travelling and living abroad, I now have lots of friends and family with small kids living far away from me. I used to find it really hard to stay in touch and feel connected with my nieces, nephews and godchildren.
Since then, I have developed ways to make sure we stay close to each other even if we may not always see each other as often as I would like.
Here are five ways you can stay connected with the little people in your life if you ever find yourself in a similar situation to me:
1. Don't Give Up On Video Chat
It can sometimes feel like a real struggle to connect with small children over phone-calls and video chat. As frustrating as it may seem, though, each time you call and try to chat to them will help you to build up a little bit more familiarity, and this will pay off eventually.
These days, my oldest niece (who is 5 years old) will call me on her own from her parents' tablet or phone, when she's allowed. It is such a nice feeling to know that I am the person she chooses to tell her exciting news to and wants to have a chat with.
Tip: Try eating lunch with them over the video chat, show them the wildlife near you, or play peek-a-boo to engage with them.
2. Share Your Life With Them Too
A lot of families share photos of the small children in their lives and their antics, but don't forget that it can be just as rewarding for kids to see what you are up to too!
A friend of mine has shared folders for different activities, such as holiday snaps, funny things they have seen, and cakes they have baked, with each family member adding to the folders when they have something on that topic to share.
Tip: set up a shared folder that you can all put photos into. It can be fun to go through a slideshow together when you next visit.
3. Give Them a Scrapbook You Can Create Together
Sometimes more traditional forms of communication can help you to build even closer bonds. Physical photos and letters can be collected and going through the collection in the scrapbook when you do visit can be a fun activity to do together.
Remember how exciting is was for you to receive 'real' post when you were a child (it is still pretty exciting for me now!).
Tip: post postcards and photos of all the things you are up to for your niece/nephew to collect and keep.
4. Give Them Books That Teach Them About Where You Live
Books are a great way for children to learn about new things in a fun environment.
My sister uses books to prepare her children for new situations, such as before they started swimming lessons, before they moved house, and before a new baby brother was born in the family. Books can help children get familiar with any new or different situation.
Tip: find children's books about the country you live in, or the job that you do. This can help children feel like they understand what your life is really like.
5. Choose a Gift That Reflects Who They Really Are
Don't be that one aunt that always sends wildly inappropriate gifts - either far too young or far too old!
If you don't live close-by it can be really hard to know what gift will actually work, particularly when they are young.
Tip: If you are stuck for ideas, have a look at our website for our handy guides to picking a good gift for kids up to 5 years old.