There are many reasons why a family who is close at heart can become separated by distance.
It may be due to the military, education, work, a break up or something that’s completely out of your control.
Whatever the situation, it can make life difficult and it is all too easy to let that distance impact your ability to stay in touch.
Whether it’s grandparents being away from their grandchildren or even parents with kids going away to college. We know all too well how it can be a struggle to keep as close as you once were.
Thankfully, there are many useful tips that will keep your connection strong, no matter the distance.
Why It’s Important For Long Distance Families To Keep In Touch
There is substantial evidence that healthy family relationships have an overwhelmingly positive impact on your well being.
Close social relationships can also reduce the likelihood of chronic disease and disability while increasing life expectancy.
While these factors might seem obvious, they show just how vital it is for long distance families to stay in touch. It’s not only going to benefit the person you’re connecting with, but also YOU!
Even with positive outcomes like those we’ve mentioned, it can be easy for time to slip by before realizing it’s been weeks since you’ve connected.
To combat this, we’ve researched 11 practical and actionable tips that prevent communication breakdown and help build strong relationships.
Staying Connected As A Long Distance Family
1. Family Group Chats
We are thankful to live in a time where older generations are becoming increasingly accepting of technology, especially smartphones.
This acceptance has created a world where children, parents and grandparents can be a part of each other’s lives, no matter where they are.
While some people may have reservations about using social media, for a long distance family, we feel the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks.
A recent study by Dr Linda Kaye and Dr Sally Quinn found that using an online chat system to connect with friends and family, like WhatsApp, can have a positive impact on our self-esteem and overall well-being.
We also recommend using WhatsApp for family group chats because it is secure and very easy to use. It’s also available on iPhone and Android devices.
About to make the move? Check out our recent post on dealing with the internal and external struggles when moving away from family.
2. Schedule Calls (& Stick To It!)
Saying you’re going to call is great, but without a little structure in place, it can easily slip your mind.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”Benjamin Franklin
Take a moment to check your schedules and find a specific time of the week you’re all available. You can also set up a second or backup time just in case!
One way we’ve found time for quick calls is our daily commute. If you drive to work or use public transport, why not take advantage of that spare time.
TIP: Are you the forgetful type? Use a calendar system like Google Calendar to set a recurring reminder on your phone. You can also add whoever you’re calling so they also receive an alert.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Share
While some of us may find it difficult to share our highs and lows, it is one of the best ways to keep those important to us, involved in our lives.
Even if you don’t think it is significant, your family will want to be their to support you.
It’s no secret that strong families have good communication. That’s why it is important to create an environment that, even over distance, allows and promotes family members to talk about their thoughts and feelings.
This will also set a great example for younger family members.
4. Get Together As Often As Possible
It can be tempting to use vacation days to ‘get away from it all’ and take a relaxing break away from civilization. For long distance families, we hope you instead use this time to see each other.
Many of us don’t realise how much time we actually have with our loved ones. Or more importantly, how many times we will see them before they pass.
A good example to quantify this is, SeeYourFolks.com. This site uses life expectancy data from the World Health Organization to show how many times you are likely to see your parents, before you cannot anymore.
While it may sound depressing. Calculating the number of times you will see your parents, or your parents being with their grandchildren can really put things into perspective.
It may not be the getaway you had hoped for, but at the end of the day you will have given yourself, and your family, more chances to create important and lasting memories.
5. Know Your Special Dates
Are you terrible with remembering special dates and milestones?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Recalling key dates off the top of your head is tough, which is why it’s important to keep track of them.
Take the time to sit down and use a piece of paper or an app on your phone and make a list of your family members, then add their birthdays and other special dates you know.
Facebook can be a great resource for those dates you are unsure about. For the rest you will need to swallow your pride and ask another family member.
You can then add them into a tool like Google Calendar to receive alerts, or add them to your physical calendar (which is our preference).
Contacting a family member on their special day will show them just how much they mean to you.
TIP: Don’t forget to mark down other days like Mothers & Fathers Day, Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day or any other occasion that may apply to a family member you want to celebrate.
6. Giving Gifts With Purpose
We all know how good it feels to receive a gift. But did you know giving gifts feels better and that feeling of joy can last even longer! That’s what a recent study from the Association for Psychological Science found.
Gifting can even positively shape children’s values.
When it comes to gifts for long distance families, there are a few options that can help foster a strong relationship and make the distance feel that much shorter.
The LoveBox Spinning Heart Messenger is a cute and sincere way of communicating. This simple yet brilliant piece of tech has a heart that will spin when a message is received.
Apart from sending the usual heartwarming messages, one way to use it is to notify family when it’s time for your scheduled chat!
If you are looking for a subtle way to let family know you are thinking about them, these Friendship Lamps are a great option.
Two or more lamps can be connected together using wifi. When one lamp is touched, it will light up and signal the other lamps it is connected to, to light up also, no matter where they are in the world.
Looking for more options? Check out our recent article on sentimental and practical gifts to help long distance families connect.
7. Play Online Games With Family
Whether it’s a game in your local park, a traditional board game or a game online, they are an amazing way to have fun. There are plenty of games that can be played together instantaneously for over a long period of time.
Words With Friends (iOS and Android) is a brilliant word building puzzle game. Draw Something (iOS and Android) allows users to draw a picture for their family members to guess. Battle Text is another great way to compete with your family and friends (iOS and Android).
If you know that your family loves playing games then it’s a great way to have that connection even when you’re far apart.
8. Utilize Apps (Family Album App)
As we have already seen, the world of apps can give you many great opportunities to stay connected. Another great app is Family Album where you can privately share photos.
Many people don’t like using Facebook or Instagram and there are older users who’d struggle to navigate it. Some people understandably don’t want to share their pictures on a public platform.
This is what makes Family Album great as it’s a much more controlled place to be able to share pictures. It is very user friendly and only the people that can see the photos are those that you choose.
9. Build Upon Shared Interests
Have a shared interest with a family member? Well, make sure you do your best to keep sharing it. Having a shared interest can give you a constant source of conversation topics that will keep the communication flowing when you’re apart.
An example could be an activity such as running. There are apps out there where you’ll be able to share your achievements. If you both love the same sport, make sure to message each other after a game.
There are a million and one different family hobbies that you could do together but if you’re not sure what a family member loves, just ask! Being able to play chess against each other online or show each other what recipes you’ve created can be a wonderful experience.
When you’re back together, you can strengthen this shared interest by doing it with each other.
10. Physical Letters
Think sending physical letters would be a waste of time?
A study by Amit Kumar and Nicholas Epley found that sending handwritten letters gives the recipient a pleasant surprise and the impact is underestimated by the person sending the appreciation.
There are many great reasons why sending a physical letter would be a great idea. It’s a variety of messaging and requires a lot more effort than just sending a message online. That effort is always appreciated.
Sending handwritten letters at unexpected times is a great way to stay in touch. Alongside this, sending cards for important dates is always a good idea. It’s a lovely gesture and you’ll also feel good doing it.
11. Truly Listen
Relationships Australia conducted a survey in 2011 that showed difficulties communicating was the second most popular reason for partnership breakdowns.
It’s easy for communication to dwindle over time, especially if someone doesn’t feel like they’re being heard.
Active listening involves absorbing what they say and giving the person speaking your undivided attention. When it comes to families separated by distance, this can mean having no distractions or taking a phone or video call in a quiet space.
Active listening gives much better feedback to the recipient and you’ll also get it back from them. It shows support, builds trust and will also reduce misunderstandings.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Which tips resonated with you the most? Whether it’s making a quick phone call or scheduling your next video chat, the best thing you can do is put one of them into action!
Do you have any great tips to help other long distance families? If so, let us know how you’ve been able to communicate with your loved ones.