Spending time with family has a lot of benefits. You feel relaxed and happy, it reduces stress, leads to a healthy lifestyle, gives you the motivation you require, and a lot more. Family is the key to a person’s overall development: how to cope with life’s ups and downs, learning to share things, and just spending time bonding with each other. The family also provides security to its members. It develops your communication skills and gives you a feeling that you are cared for and belong to a strong and cohesive unit. Family teaches you how to treat one another with respect. You have an abundance of love and laughter, endless chatter, lengthy discussions, and you help each other with practically everything. Looking forward to those story sessions from your grandparents, the yummy and healthy food prepared by them, the little giggles, and the outdoor games… you get all of this from being part of a family.
But there comes a time when you have to move away from your family for a long period due to various reasons; It could be your higher education or your dream career where you have to travel a lot and you miss your family dearly. Regardless of your physical location, it is vitally important to keep in touch with your family and have a good relationship with them.
If you have family abroad or you’re overseas and they’re all at home, here are a few ways to keep in touch with your long-distance family members.
Communicate: Communication plays a very important role in any relationship. It helps you connect with people who matter the most to you. Use technology to communicate with your family members. You can communicate in different ways. Use WhatsApp. Skype, Instagram, etc. to keep in touch with your family members. You can video call them or talk through FaceTime. Keep in touch with them from time to time. Call, chat, or even email them. Decide on how to communicate with each member of your family, whether to talk to them individually or collectively. Talk to your family every day, depending on their availability. Keep in mind the different time zones if you are in another country. Text them regularly. Send good morning or good night texts.
Get everyone online: Apps such as Skype and Google Meet let you connect through instant messages. Introduce your family members to these online apps, where you can engage together as a family with each other. This is one of the best options to stay connected with your long-distance family members. You can talk to your mother or your aunt and get the recipes from them when you get the urge to cook. Or when you go shopping for groceries and you are not sure of the things you need for the kitchen, call and speak to them. Video call them and show them your new city, the house where you stay, or the food you have cooked. By being in touch constantly, you don’t miss each other even though you are miles apart.
Old fashioned snail mail: Handwritten letters seem to be the thing of the past and largely forgotten. Use it to stay in touch with your family members, especially your older family members like your grandparents, who would love to read your handwritten letters and see the printed pictures you send. You can use different ways to communicate to people of different age groups in your family, like your parents, your grandparents, your uncles and aunts, your nephews, and your nieces. Send postcards with pictures of the place where you stay. Write a note about the picture. Keep them updated about your activities. This will help you to stay connected with your family members, especially the older generation.
Playing online games with family: There are several online games to choose from. Select a few that your family members are interested in, or would like to play, like, Pictionary, Heads up, Jackbox games, etc. Set a game time with your family members. Find a good app that everyone can use like Zoom, Google Meet, or Skype. You can even have prizes for the winners, which will make playing the games more interesting and fun. You can play both competitive and team games. This is one of the best ways to stay connected with your long-distance family members.
Celebrate Special Occasions: This is another way to keep in touch with your long-distance family members. Jot down important dates like birthdays and anniversaries. Remember to celebrate these occasions with your family virtually. Call and wish them and order food, or arrange games. Send gifts for them. You can have a fun time with your family. You can even celebrate a promotion or a pay hike of a family member, or the birth of a child. Video call them and ask them to unwrap the gifts on a video call and celebrate their happiness with the whole family.
Get together as often as possible: Meeting up with your family and spending quality time with them is important. Visit them as often as possible, because we never know how much time we have with our loved ones. Your family will value and appreciate the time you have taken out of your busy schedule to spend time with them. Your older relatives, who have brought you up, will be thrilled to have you and spend time with you. Take a lot of pictures of your family together and create memories, which they’ll all treasure for a long time.
Don’t be afraid to share: Your family is a great support system. Share your thoughts, feelings, and worries with your loved ones and family. If you are not in a position to decide on important things in your life, share your concerns with older members. It could be a decision regarding your finances, choosing the right life partner, or making a major career decision, especially if it involves a lot of traveling and you have to move away from your home. They will be of great support and can give you advice on how to go about it.
Use a family album app: Technology plays a very important role in helping people connect with each other. Tons of mobile apps offer the opportunity to stay connected. The best app for this is Family Album, where everyone can freely share their photos. Share pictures of your family members taken years ago as well asthe most recent ones. They will enjoy seeing their pictures and help them reconnect with their past. Share pictures of yourself, your workplace, your new city, and even your neighborhood. This will give them a glimpse of the city you live in. You can even choose the people who can see your photos.
Build your shared interests: Having a common hobby with your family members is a great way to get connected. Talk about your hobbies to your loved ones, find out about their hobbies, and reminisce about the things you used to do together as children. If you shared a common hobby once, try doing it together again. Share tips on how to improve your hobbies and learn from each other - and most of all, have fun. This will help you create strong lines of communication with your long-distance family members because they are purpose-driven.
Listening: Listening to your family members patiently will make them feel loved and cared for. Talk to them about your job, their passion, their hobbies, or even their fears. Similarly, listen to them when they talk, especially your grandparents. They love to talk about their past, what they did for a living, how they lived their life, their food, clothing, and their hobbies. They would love to share it with grandchildren who are keen on listening to them.
Determine their needs: Every member of your family will have different needs. So decide to look into each member's wants and needs. If you are buying them gifts, decide and buy what they like and what they require. It could be a shirt for your dad or a new phone for your mother or a book (novel) for your sister or brother. You can also order medicines online for your grandparents.
Family group chats: You can chat as a family in this group. Give a name to your group. Share your day-to-day activities in the group. You can wish each other on their birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. Share your recipes with them. The best thing about this family group chat is that you get to chat with each other regardless of the physical distance separating you. Each family member can share their thoughts and views, and it’s a fun way to keep connected with your family members. Just be sure to steer away from controversial topics or matters that some family members might be sensitive to.
Give gifts with a purpose: Everyone loves to receive gifts. Give gifts that are useful. If you have a large family, then give gifts that won’t end up sitting on some shelf in the closet. You can gift a smartphone for your niece or nephew for their online classes, or a soft and warm sweater for your dad as winter approaches, a new cooking range for your mother if her old one is on its last legs, a soft toy if there are smaller kids at home, etc. Your thoughtfulness in sending gifts will be noticed and appreciated.
Turn your family photo into a puzzle: You are a family whether you live together or are scattered across different parts of the world. One way of keeping in touch with your long-distance family members is to create a family photo into a puzzle using online photo services. You can talk about the members of your family as you put together the pieces of the puzzle, which is sure to invoke memories of the times you shared with them.
Schedule calls: Fix a schedule for your calls. Find a specific time of the week when everyone in your family is available. Ensure you follow the schedule. If you are busy and cannot make a call, message your family and keep them informed, and reschedule it for a different time. Don’t make your family members wait, especially your grandparents, who will be eagerly awaiting these calls. You can even set a separate time just to talk to your parents and grandparents.
Start a Blog: Technology has made communication easier. There are many user-friendly platforms like WordPress and Blogspot. Start a blog. It is a great way to keep your family members updated on your activities. Write about what is going on in your life; you can put up pictures and even connect your posts to your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that your family members can enjoy your little updates. Encourage your family members to also start a blog and update what’s happening in their lives, too. This is a very creative way to stay connected.
Do something together: This is another way to stay in touch with your long-distance family members. There are ways to share an activity. Find ones that interest your family. You can read a book with one of your family members, play an online game that they are interested in, or share photos and arrange them in an album. Ask your relatives to email their photos to you. You can make your family tree or a family photo calendar. You can even sing together virtually with your dad or anyone in your family who is interested in singing. Just make sure everyone participates in some way.
Take a virtual vacation: You can plan a virtual vacation with your long-distance family members. Talk to them and make a list of the places they would like to visit. This will be a wonderful way to get connected with your family members. This will be a great idea and everyone in your family will love it, especially the older members of your family like your grandparents, who cannot travel physically to see places. Select the place they would like to see and take them on a virtual tour and explore the city's parks, zoo, aquarium, the places of worship, the marketplace, the beaches, the culture of the people living there, the sunset, and the variety of food available, etc. You can even attend live concerts and shows.
Share recipes and cook a meal together: Another way to get connected with your long-distance family members is to share recipes and cook a meal together. This will strengthen your bond with your family. You can video call them and show them what you have cooked. Set a day or time when everyone is available. Each one can share their recipes and have them cooked. Have a meal together (virtually). You can set your table, put up your favorite tablecloth, your favorite cutlery and pour out a glass of your favorite drink. Connect via FaceTime. You can even meet virtually and do a snacktime event such as High Tea with everyone. Share jokes and have a good laugh. Laughter is good medicine, after all.
Watch your favorite shows: You all love watching your favorite shows together. You can still do it though you are miles apart. Each member will have his / her favorite TV show. Find out a common show which everybody likes and then watch it together. Talk about the characters in the show, their way of delivering their dialogues, and how the story unfolds. You can also watch comedy shows, laugh and have fun together. If you are watching a family drama, relate the character to a member of your family. This is the best way to keep in touch with your family members and will strengthen your relationship.
Take an online art or a workout class: You are an art lover and love to paint and do a lot of DIY projects. You can start an online class for art. Rope in your family members who are interested in learning art, especially the children. Fix a date and time when they are free and teach them the basics of art and how to make the best out of waste. The children will be interested and this will keep them occupied. You can also start an online workout class for your family and ask them to join in. Have a set time and date. It will be a healthy and fun-filled session.
Share your life: When you are away, your family members will miss you and will be concerned, especially when you are oceans apart. They will be worried and would love to know how you are managing the new place, the food, the culture, and various other things. It will be great if you share your life with them. Video call them, show them the place where you stay, the food, your surroundings. You can even take a virtual tour of the city you live in, the market, the places of attraction. Take pictures of your college campus or the office you work in and send them to your family members.
Virtual family get-togethers: There’s nothing like having family get-togethers, which are always a blast if you’re a close-knit family. Plan a get-together once a week depending on everybody’s availability, say on a weekend. Arrange some games that everyone can play, right from the oldest member to the youngest one. You can even organize a talent show where everyone takes turns doing an activity. It will be so much fun and everyone in your family will appreciate your effort in putting it all together.
Have a movie night: You used to have movie nights as a family when you were a child. Everyone would get together after all their chores are done and wait for the movie to be played. Snacks would be served which everybody enjoyed and relished. Plan a movie night with remote streaming with your family. It will make you nostalgic. Choose a movie that everyone would love to watch. This is another fun and relaxed way to stay connected with your long-distance family members.
Send gifts for birthdays: Make a list of birthdays in your family. Gift them on their birthdays. Choose a gift that they like and will be useful, keeping in mind their age and liking. You can even order gifts online or send them gift cards. Send care packages for your older relatives, which will be useful. There are so many gifts to choose from. You can gift a wristwatch, a book (novel) to a person who loves reading, chocolates, a set of touch lamps for you and your mother (which can be connected via Wi-Fi and whenever you touch the sensor on your lamp, hers will light up in the same color, letting her know that you are thinking of her), a framed picture collage of the whole family, or an e-card with a cute design and beautiful quote and message that will be delivered to the recipient's email inbox. These gifts will be appreciated by your family members.
Start a book club: If you have a family that loves to read, then the best way to stay in touch with your family is to start a book club. Choose a book once a week or once a month that your family would love to read. Once everyone finishes reading, choose another book to read. Discuss the characters in the book and the story.
Plan a family reunion: This is another way to keep in touch with your long-distance family members. When your family is scattered all over and you long to meet up with everyone, plan a virtual family reunion. Organize the meeting, the date, and the time. Check with each member of the family about their availability and then fix a date convenient for all. You can get updates from everyone about their education, jobs, health conditions, etc.,
Treat your family with respect: You have grown up in a family where you were thought to respect your elders, their advice, their sentiments, and above all to consider their age while you talk to them. Continue to do that when you are away from your family. Respect them when you talk to them, listen to their advice. You can teach the younger children in your family to respect them and above all set an example for them.
Managing conflict: Conflicts are common when you stay in a joint family. There can be misunderstandings when you are away and your communication is limited to only texting. Try to communicate more often with your family members, remain calm, patiently listen to what they say, and try to understand from their perspective. Don’t be rude, explain clearly your side of the story, make them understand, and clear all doubts and misunderstandings. Schedule a time to talk to the members of your family. Bring your family together by staying in touch with every member.
Maintaining a good rapport: When you are away from your family, it is important to keep in touch with every member of your family, right from the older members to the younger ones. Each member is different and you know how effectively to keep in touch with each of them. Call and speak to your grandparents, video call them. They would like to see and hear your voice. Enquire about their health, how they are spending their time etc. Tell them about your work, the culture of the people (when you stay overseas), their food. They would love to listen to you. Try to call them frequently or even write letters to them. They will be happy reading them. Similarly with your parents. Talk to them, ask them if everything is fine, or help them to solve if they are facing any issues. Tell them how much you miss them and are longing to be with them. When it comes to your nephews and nieces, contact them via Snapchat, Instagram, and various other apps. Talk to them about their education, how they are handling it, and the new hobbies they have started. Ask them about their friends, the movies they last watched. Your ways of communicating to different members of different age groups in your family are more important and will strengthen your bond with them.
Don’t give up: It is a task to keep the family united. Conflicts and misunderstandings do crop up, but it helps the family to grow. Relatives will stop visiting each other due to a rift in the family, or their busy schedule which is keeping them away. Interact with each member of the family. Try to talk to them and help them with their struggle and try to bring them together. Don’t give up.
Go on a virtual shopping spree: When you plan to visit your family and want to pick up gifts for them, it is a good idea to video call them on your shopping spree. Pick up the items that your family members choose. You can do that for every member of your family - if it is possible and if you have the time for it. Your thought of giving them the things they like will be appreciated and will strengthen your bond with your family members.
Invite your family over: If you are unable to travel to your hometown due to work, it is a good idea to invite your family over to your place. It will be a good chance for them to visit a new and different place, especially your grandparents and parents. Cater to their needs and make them comfortable. Take them around and show them the city, the tourist spots, the places of worship, the beach, or your favorite restaurant. If you can afford it, invite your other family members, too. You can have a fun-filled time and a good reunion. It’ll be a great experience for you and your family members.
Learn new hobbies together: It is fun to learn new hobbies. Get everyone together and find out what they would like to learn. List out the hobbies and learn them together. There are so many hobbies to learn, like painting, sculpting, singing, sketching, etc. You can take up one hobby a month. You can even learn from your grandmother how to knit or crochet, tailoring skills, and the art of cooking and baking.
Be there for them: You have been a part of a joint family that stood by you in all your struggles. You played an important role in your family. They adore you and enjoy your company, and value your advice. Your family members will be waiting for your visit which you do once a year. They look forward to spending quality time with you. You must support your family. Be there for them when they need you the most. Listen to their woes, be patient with them. Try to solve their issues. If you can afford it, help your relatives who need financial assistance or educate your niece or nephew if they want to pursue their higher education. Video call them if necessary and try to understand their feelings and difficulties. Deal with each member of your family differently. Assure them of your support always.
Have a virtual karaoke night: Remember the days when all of you, as a family, would spend time together? You used to have fun times talking and teasing each other. There would be get-togethers for birthdays, engagements, and other occasions. Now that you have moved away to another place, you’ll miss the time you have spent with your family. Arrange or plan a karaoke night on Zoom for your family members. Get them to sing any song they like. It can be classical, pop, rock, or even spiritual songs. Involve the oldest members to the youngest ones. This will break any kind of friction or misunderstanding among the family members - at least for the time being and it’s a great way to get connected with your long-distance family members.
Long lost relatives: It was always fun and you feel protected and supported in a joint family. Being brought up in a joint family had a lot of advantages. You have so many people to talk to and support you. Sometimes your relatives move away to different cities or even overseas to pursue their career or education. You lose touch with them as the years go by. Contact them and enquire about their jobs, their children’s education, the climate in the place they live in. Though you cannot meet them physically, technology has made it easier for you to contact them through different apps. Arrange zoom calls with your family and ask your relatives to join. This will be a wonderful way to get your family together and keep in touch with them virtually forgetting the differences and misunderstandings between them.
Collect and share family memories: Another way to stay in touch with your long-distance family members is to share memories of your family members with one another. Share your memories and collect them from your family. You can do this virtually by inviting your family on Zoom and asking every member to share at least one fond memory relating to your family. It will be fun and nostalgic to remember the times you have spent together.
Share pictures: Another great way to keep in touch with your family members is to share pictures. When a part of your family has moved to different places, due to their jobs, higher education, etc. you lose contact with them and do not share the same bond which you used to share years ago. Ask each member to share pictures of their family. It could be any picture, like pictures of their childhood, their ancestral home, picture of the cousins together, a picnic or a family vacation, their birthday celebration, college graduation, wedding, or an old family picture, where the entire family is present.
Email: Another way to keep in touch with your family members is through email. It is an easy way to communicate. Communicate through emails to every member of your family. Send an email once a week or weekly twice to your family and keep them updated. If you want to send the same update to your entire family, you can do so through email.
Having healthy conversations: Always remember that a family comprises members of different age groups. Having a healthy conversation with them is important. Members can get emotional. Be careful of what you say, especially if the family member is older. When a person is speaking, do not interrupt and do not contradict. Allow them to complete before you start speaking. Do not deviate from the topic. Allow them to express themself. Get to the point. Share your views and thoughts directly. Do not beat around the bush. Be honest in your talks. Do not provoke or make fun of them. Listen to them carefully and avoid judging them. Ask questions if necessary to clarify your doubts. Offer advice if asked to, otherwise refrain from doing so. This will help you have a good relationship with your family members.
Teaching your children to communicate and respect elders: Showing respect to elderly family members is more important. Teach your children the right ways to communicate with different members of your family. Take time to spend with your family members. Plan on a yearly vacation, where you can come with your children. Children bond easily with people. Prepare your children and teach them how to bond with your relatives, because children show a mix of emotions like fear, shyness, anxiety. Show them pictures of your ancestral home, the place where you will be spending the vacation, the picture of your relatives living there. Tell them stories about your relatives and the activities they do for a living. Show them around the place and make them feel comfortable. Allow your children to spend quality time with your family members so that both of them can warm up easily. Have a family get together and introduce your family to them. When you give importance to building a strong relationship with members of your family, you will be appreciated. Teach your children how to communicate even when they are not physically present with your family. This is another way to get in touch with your long-distance family members.
Do not blame: When you have a large family, there’s bound to be misunderstandings, jealousy, and ego clashes. Please remember not to blame any member of your family. It is difficult but possible and this is important to strengthen your relationship with your family members. Call them, clear out any misunderstandings and keep in touch with them. Remember that every member is important and that it is necessary to keep in touch,
Show appreciation and value them: Everybody wants to be appreciated and shown respect. Appreciate your family members for what they have done for you. It could be a small contribution from their side in nurturing you. Each member of your family would have played a part in your growing up. Some would have taken you to school and brought you back and some of them would have cooked meals for you and your grandparents, who have taken care of you while your parents were away working. Show them love and respect. Tell them how grateful you are for them and without their help you wouldn't be what you are today. Every time you talk to them, tell them how much you appreciate what they have done for you. This will help you keep a healthy relationship with your long-distance family members.
Involve yourself: Involving yourself in the activities of your long-distance family members even though you are miles apart will make a huge impact on your relationship with them. If there’s a wedding in the family, you can virtually involve yourself in the preparations. Plan, arrange and coordinate various activities pertaining to the wedding. Allocate jobs for every member of your family, thus involving every member. Your family members will be made to feel important and will gladly do what has been assigned to them. Similarly, you can arrange a theme-based birthday party for your nephews and nieces. You can also organize a vacation for your family members. Ask your family to decide a place they all would like to visit, plan every minute detail, keeping in mind the age and health of each family member. You can call them through skype and talk to each one of them while they are on vacation. Enquire about the arrangements you have made for them and if they are comfortable. If your parents and grandparents want to visit a place of worship, you can arrange for a vehicle to pick them up and drop them. This is one way to get connected with your family when you are away in a different city or a country.