How to Stay a 'Family' Over Long Distances
Just recently, I found myself looking at a national weather map to note the conditions in 4 different locales: my own; my husband’s, who is currently working in another state; and my 2 daughters, who are both at different universities. It’s a small thing, but knowing what each of them would face in the way of weather made me feel a bit closer to their day-to-day lives.
Use technology to connect you
Many families face similar circumstances. Fortunately, technology has made staying in touch relatively cheap and easy. Regular communication is key, but it needs to be quality communication. How to do that? Find interesting, up-to-date things to talk about. A few simple tricks:
- Bookmark online versions of your loved one’s local newspaper, school or place of business so you can discuss current news (see www.newspapers.com).
- Schedule times for unhurried conversations. Schedule a once-a-week family teleconference call. Consider videoconferencing.
- Start an online book, movie or music club. Share favorite Internet sites. Use a scanner to share interesting articles or book excerpts.
- Make a big deal out of birthdays and holidays. E-cards are fun, but they can get old after awhile. Create personalized e-mails instead. Jazz them up with different fonts, backgrounds and images.
- Find an online easy-to-use photo-sharing format for your digital photos. You can look through someone’s slide show as quickly as you can fan through a stack of “real” photos.
- Start a family group at a social-networking website or create a family blog (your own personal website). Ready-to-use formats make this easy; see www.myfamily.com.
- Invest in a digital video camera or Web camera. But don’t burden people with long, boring videos.
- Snail mail may be slow, but one thing remains constant—everyone likes to get a package. If you receive one—respond promptly with a “thank you.”
Don’t wait until a reunion to share feelings. If you hear a song, and it reminds you of the person, let him know. Is something bothering you? Tell her while it’s on your mind. Don’t let it build up until it’s a bigger problem. Here are some other tips:
- Respond promptly to e-mails.
- Send instant messages—but only if you like to do it. Don’t let it become an annoyance.
- Invest in a family cell phone plan and have emergency contacts.
- Help “nontechie” relatives get online. Libraries offer free courses and Internet access.
- Get a PDA (a personal digital assistant such as a BlackBerry). That way you can send e-mail from anywhere.
- Learn to send photos and text messages with your cellular phone.
- Nothing beats face time. Schedule as many visits as your budget will allow. Meet at in-between spots.
By Amy Fries
©2006 Achieve Solutions