Whenever we think of staying in touch with a long-distance family, it can sometimes seem overwhelming not knowing the best way to stay involved in each other's lives. Dealing with time zone differences, military deployments, and school and work schedules can get hectic.
However, relationships between long-distance families are a special and unique bond. Moreover, thanks to modern technology and some creativity, keeping in touch can be easy and rewarding. We've found some great, actionable ideas for keeping in contact no matter how many miles separate you!
Practical Tips for Staying in Touch with Long-Distance Family Members
Staying in touch with a long-distance family is an excellent way to form healthy, strong relationships with members of your family that you may not see regularly. We have put together our favorite creative ways to make staying in touch with family more effortless than ever. Of course, some of our suggestions may work for some family members and not everyone. And that's okay!
Maybe some kids want to start a family video game and a few other family members prefer to stream a movie. If everyone is happy and spending time together, it doesn’t matter who does what. Staying in touch doesn't have to be complicated; with a bit of planning and a whole lot of love, it can be enjoyable for everyone!
1. Find a Schedule That Works for Everyone
We have incredible technology at our fingertips, but without a schedule that works for everyone, it can sometimes seem frustrating. Your FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangout times will be much more rewarding if there is a schedule in place that works for everyone. Managing the time for chatting is especially important when considering the various time zones and work schedules involved in planning.
2. Make a Calendar of Important Family Dates
Remembering important dates shows family members that you are thinking of them and cherishing them. However, we've all forgotten birthdays and anniversaries of the important people in our lives. Unfortunately, not everyone is on Facebook to get the notification, or we may fail to check our planner from last year.
Whatever the case may be, a great way to remember everyone's birthday is to make a calendar with family photos and include dates meaningful to the family, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations. Making your family calendar is unique and something everyone can keep for years to come.
You could pay for a company to make a physical copy or send reminders to add to Google calendar. Whatever works best for your family! However, a physical copy of a family calendar is a great keepsake to have for years to come.
3. Take Advantage of Modern Technology
Thankfully, all ages are now embracing digital communication for staying in touch with long-distance family members. Keep a regular family meetup schedule on Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangout, or another app your family uses. These apps are perfect for including several family members in the same call and are easy to use for family members of all ages.
4. Start a Family Group Chat
A family group chat is one of the most practical and easy-to-use messaging systems that keep you in touch with as many long-distance family members as you want. Depending on what phone and messaging system everyone uses, you could start either a text group chat on your iPhone or Android device or a WhatsApp group.
5. Work Toward a Goal Together
Lace-up your running shoes! Training for a 5k or half-marathon is a great way for the whole family to work toward a goal. Everyone could train on their own, and when you get together once a year or so, you could run a race. For example, you could run an early morning turkey trot if you get together at Thanksgiving.
Don't be discouraged! There are plenty of other goals you could work toward as a family if running isn't their favorite pastime. Such as learning a new language, rereading a favorite book series, or visiting every National Park; if everyone is having good fun and enjoying themselves working toward something together, then you have already reached your goal.
6. Play Video Games
Playing video games with several family members is a great way to connect and bond over long-distance. You could pick their favorite games and then schedule weekly times that work for everyone. Video games are an excellent use of technology to keep everyone involved while enjoying a favorite pastime.
7. Host Virtual Family Movie Nights
The pandemic era phenomena of virtual movie parties through various streaming services are something we now wonder how we went without for so long. Consequently, hosting a family night movie is something everyone can get involved in and enjoy. Moreover, hosting a 'watch party' is super simple.
8. Plan Annual Family Vacations
It's easy to take for granted the few times a year the family can get together. However, with limited vacation days and the busyness of life, it can sometimes feel like there will always be the next vacation to visit your long-distance family.
You won't regret planning a yearly vacation with the family, even if it is just for a long weekend. Regular visits with your parents are healthy for your kids to get to know the older generation. As well as for your kids to get to know their cousins, who may live all over the country. No matter how distant, bonding with family creates a strong family connection that will last for generations.
9. Surprise Your Family
Shhhh! It's a surprise!
A surprise party is a fun and exciting way to get your long-distance family involved in important events in each other's lives. For example, the perfect gift for grandma's 80th birthday may be to get all her children and grandchildren together and surprise her with a party.
If it's challenging to plan a surprise where everyone is there physically, another good option is to prepare a virtual surprise party for birthdays, graduations, and promotions. Again, find the platform everyone is comfortable using and surprise the guest of honor.
10. Send Snail Mail
Get out your pen and paper. It's time to write an old-fashioned letter! The only thing better than receiving an unexpected letter in the mail is to send one. Sending physical mail such as handwritten letters and cards for special occasions is a spontaneous gesture of thoughtfulness in today's busy world.
It's a great way to keep in touch with long-distance family members of all ages. And, down the road, it's always fun to get out everyone's letters and reread what was going on in their lives through the years.
11. You’ve Got (E)mail!
Email is a convenient way for long-distance family members to stay in the loop with what is going on in everyone's lives. For example, each family member could take turns sending a weekly update with pictures, stories, and achievements.
It can feel strange emailing family members you may not know well. However, email is one of the best ways to overcome that feeling and start a relationship with family members; otherwise, you wouldn't have a chance to get to know them. Thankfully technology allows for relationships to flourish regardless of the miles apart. Email is the perfect way to create a safe place to share your life.
12. Learn About Your Heritage Together
Over the last few years, learning about our ancestry has become a favorite pastime for long-distance family members, with resources such as online databases and virtual family trees. Ancestral databases are a great way to connect with family because it's something you all have in common: your heritage! In addition, you can see how far the databases go back in your family and learn more about your family tree.
The fun part about being involved in an online ancestral database is sometimes you discover long-distance family members that you didn't know you had. You can now add distant cousins and aunts and uncles that are an exciting connection to the family tree.
13. Start a Digital Family Scrapbook
Time to get your creative juices flowing! A digital family scrapbook is an easy way for the whole family to get creative in family pictures and scrapbooking memories you've made together. Every family member can add photos and stories to the scrapbook, and it is a great way, especially for grandparents, to look at how much the grandkids have grown and the fun events everyone has attended.
Even the less than digital savvy can navigate an online scrapbook making it a good choice for multiple generations. For example, one way you could make it work is each family member could make a few pages each year and update it at a specific time, such as at the end of the year.
Then the family could look over everyone's pages together. Maybe you have a budding artist or graphic designer in the family, and they might enjoy compiling everyone’s stories and photos in a way that is memorable.
14. Get the Kids Involved
Who doesn't love receiving drawings, painting, or handmade cards from their grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or cousins? Getting kids involved in staying connected with long-distance family members is an excellent way for them to build a strong bond early in life with their family.
But, of course, it's easy in the busyness of life to let time slip away. Still, by taking a few minutes to put together your kid's artwork or letters to send to the distant family, you will surely reap the benefits of a family connection that will be with them their entire lives.
15. Don’t Be Afraid To Overshare
Sometimes it can be awkward sharing stories of your life with family members you may not know very well, but don't be afraid to overshare. Your family cares for you, loves you, and wants to learn more about you.
Sending a few pictures a week and a few emails or letters may seem like a lot to you, but to the recipient, it means the world to them to feel a part of your life and to participate in your daily activities. The more you communicate and actively participate in your long-distance relative’s life, the easier it is to share.
16. Interview Each Other
You may have heard your great uncle was in WWII, or you may have heard that your grandma was one of the first female college students in your family, but you want to learn more. Interviewing long-distance family members is a great way to get to know them and learn about your family's history and heritage.
Plus, they may not have had anyone ask them to tell their story and would feel loved and appreciated just knowing you reached out to talk to them. Listening to your family's stories makes them feel special and creates a close bond regardless of the distance in between.
17. Start a Virtual Family Cookbook
Ever wonder why your aunt's apple pie tasted the best or what the secret ingredient was to your dad's BBQ sauce? Starting a virtual family cookbook is a convenient way to compile everyone's famous passed-down recipe for the new generations to learn. Simply find the online system that is best for you. It could be as easy as making a document and have everyone add their recipe.
A great way to stay connected with long-distance relatives is to share the story of how a family member got the recipe in the cookbook. Saving space for new stories of when other people made the dish is fun for everyone to read through their experiences and get to know relatives you may not know well. Ready to start baking?
18. Send Meaningful Gifts
Have you ever heard of the saying; it is better to give than to receive? It's true! Sending meaningful gifts to those we care about is a beautiful surprise for your family members, but it also provides a dopamine boost and makes us feel happy.
There are endless options for sending meaningful gifts depending on what your family members enjoy. Of course, you could send a gift for special occasions or events, but it is also fun to send a surprise gift at random times to let them know you were thinking of them.
A unique and memorable way of communicating through simple technology and its easy-to-use design is the Lovebox Spinnies. It is an especially great choice for multiple family members who live in several locations because you can include an unlimited number of loved ones in the message. There is even a special Lovebox just for grandparents! The choices are endless.
Staying in Touch Doesn’t Have To Be Hard
To effortlessly stay in touch with long-distance family members, it is vital to find a schedule that works for everyone and find the messaging service and technology accessible for everyone to use. Starting virtual family scrapbooks and cookbooks is a great way to get to know each other. Planning surprises, birthdays, and anniversaries is just as rewarding for you as for the guest of honor.
And, of course, small, unexpected gifts from loved ones will be something long-distance families will cherish for years to come. However you choose to stay connected to loved ones through distance will be special and unique. Through our creative and memorable ideas, every long-distance family can form a strong bond that will benefit many generations.