A Guide for Nurturing Long-Distance Family Relationships

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In a perfect world, all of your loved ones would be nearby and your family would never be apart; but sometimes life has different plans. There are many reasons for long-distance family relationships: a retiree moves to a warmer climate, a military member serves overseas, or someone goes out-of-state for college or a new job.
Regardless of the reason why a family can’t be together, it can be difficult to stay close while you are far from each other. Different time zones can make it particularly hard to find the right time to connect. Not being able to share the same everyday occurrences such as local news and activities (or even the weather!) can also make it hard to truly connect with a loved one.
Although staying in touch can be challenging, below are some tips about how to deal with long distance family relationships.

Look for Opportunities to Celebrate

Get out your calendar! In addition to holidays, milestones such as graduations, weddings, and birthdays are perfect opportunities to celebrate. First birthdays in particular are truly momentous occasions for parents, little ones, and other family members to mark the passage of time.
Whatever the reason to celebrate, there are plenty of occasions that give you a reason to gather together or reach out to loved ones. Look at the year ahead and start planning!

Use Technology

Technology is your friend and should be leveraged to communicate with long-distance family. Whether you gather in person or online, online invitations sent by email or text are an easy way to track RSVPs, share important event information, and coordinate food and activities.
Video conferencing platforms are also useful to communicate with long-distance family. There are numerous video conferencing platforms out there. It’s important to understand that there may be some technophobes in your family, so try to pick a platform that is easy to use and, if needed, walk people through how to use it.

Coordinate Carefully

Planning is very important, especially for large meet-ups, gatherings that require extended travel, or virtual events. Whether you plan a family reunion or an end-of-summer party, detailed planning can improve the chances that people will participate. 
Regardless of the occasion, it’s important that you plan in advance. If you leave things to the last minute and don’t communicate with everyone well in advance, you’ll end up with unhappy family members! The best way to prevent this is to inform everyone about important details such as event date and time, a schedule of activities, and any software you plan to use as soon as possible. 

Communicate with your family about what they can expect and everyone will be on track for a fun and successful gathering!

Share Big Moments

Celebrations such as birthdays and holidays are the perfect opportunities to reach out to family. Phone calls are always appreciated on these special occasions, especially when people can’t be together. A thoughtful holiday eCard or birthday eCard is another easy way to keep in touch and let loved ones know that you’re thinking of them. For an extra special touch, add a personalized video message and gift card to any digital greeting card.
If there are physical holiday or birthday gifts to be opened, set up a video conference call so that everyone can join in on the fun. Everyone will love to see their relatives’ smiling faces when opening presents. No matter how you reach out, the most important thing to remember is that any form of outreach is valuable.

Find Small Ways to Reach Out

It’s better to make small check-ins with loved ones instead of constantly putting off larger, more complex social plans. Small acts of reaching out are less daunting because they don’t require advanced planning and coordinating with multiple people. For example, the simple act of getting your child to write thank-yous is the perfect example of a small, but important way family members can reach out. 
Let’s not forget that everyone loves to get gifts. Send loved ones their favorite candy, homemade cookies, or a book you think they’d enjoy. It will be a much-welcomed surprise! Don’t have enough time to send a parcel? Don’t worry! Even a quick email or text with a funny picture or meme can brighten someone’s day!

Help Other Family Members Participate

Everyone wants to feel included but sometimes circumstances such as limited mobility or limited resources could prevent someone from being able to participate in family relationship building activities. If this is the case, reach out to those who you think might need help and ask—in a respectful manner—if they need any assistance. For those with disabilities, there are plenty of assistive tools and technologies out there to help them communicate with loved ones. If a family member is on a budget, be sure to pick free communication platforms to remove any financial burdens.
Lastly, offer family members assistance with any software or hardware and, if possible, test any technology with them to make sure they get the hang of it. Even if they don’t need your help, they’ll appreciate your offer! 

Cultivate the Relationship With Positivity

One of the most important things to remember when trying to keep in touch with long-distance family is to be positive. The goal is to encourage social interaction so positive reinforcement always trumps negative reinforcement. For example, shaming someone for missing a gathering is likely to push them away further, whereas telling them how wonderful it is to see them may offer encouragement.
Know that being apart can be difficult for everyone and try your best to be flexible and understanding and remember that nurturing long-distance family relationships will help you stay close even if you’re apart!

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