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Family Life | Building strong families even if separated by distance

I am amazed at the care the German government is giving young families here where our son and daughter-in-law have settled. A midwife does home visit two to three times a week to check mother and child to ensure they are doing well and are properly taken care of. This service is free! With an aging population, the government wants to ensure that young families are supported in this endeavor of raising the young. Free education from kindergarten or kita (ages three to six for play and socialization) up to college and postgraduate is one of the things that attract many other nationalities to migrate and live here, aside from the quality of life, orderly convenience, and well-paying jobs.

It is no wonder that professionals who have a taste of working and living abroad as OFWs decide to stay on for good in other countries especially when they can bring their spouse and children along. Several nieces and a nephew and our children’s friends have done that. Opportunities to elevate one’s standard of living continue to draw Filipinos abroad. And with globalization and the culture of migration among the millenials, families could be scattered in different parts of the world. Last week, I shared about how OFWs separated from spouse and children maintain connection with their families at home, and how certain families ensured that their families remain intact despite the long separation at a time. But how does one, as parents and grandparents, sustain and maintain close family ties when you are separated by distance, as in our case with both children living in different countries with their families?

What I will share may not be typical, but i believe that God has to come in the picture to make things possible. For us, we made a decision to visit every two years or when there is a special need while we still have the strength to do so. Since our children have work and children’s school schedules to consider, we rearrange ours to be there and stay for months at a time to maximize the travel costs. We are there at every birth to welcome the newborn, help care for the other grandkids, and to come alongside the young families. In doing so, we get to connect and develop close relationships with our children, their spouses and especially with the grandkids. We pray, plan, and trust the Lord every time for His provision and He never fails to provide each time!

Our purpose is not sightseeing, but “to be with.” We engage them in deep conversations about their marriages, their parenting, their spiritual lives, their struggles, their future plans, and just do life together so we have a clear picture of what their typical lives really look like. We come to serve, to give them breaks; we cook, do errands, and also help with their interstate move and settling in the new home. We play, read to, do projects, walk to school and pick them up and create memorable times with our grandkids so our lives are both enriched. I notice that little ones especially need the “physical” presence for months at a time to sustain the connection with our long physical absences in their lives. On their part, our children also come home every several years of being away.

We find these visits critical in our commitment to sustain our family long-distance relationships. It also makes it easier to continue to connect online in between visits. On their end, our children keep us updated with photos, videos of their child/children and their activities. We often connect through chats, and once in a while we video chat. But often, we too get busy with our lives and work when we are home.

That is why we made the commitment that we did and trusted God to provide for these visits every few years to keep our relationships current. We are mindful of the fact that time may come when we can no longer do so due to old age, and that our grandkids will grow up and may be away to study somewhere else and live busy lives of their own. But for now, while we can and God grants our heart’s desires and prayers, we are here with and for them.

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