As someone who moved away from home to follow a job opportunity in another state, I keenly understand the deep desire to feel closer to loved ones and connect with family and friends living far away. Sharing moments, keeping up to date on daily lives, and nurturing the familial bond through routine check-ins are all a natural part of the human condition, and something I’ve missed deeply over the years.
Still, many of us live hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from the place where we were born. By age 50, almost 95% of Americans will no longer live near where they grew up, most following jobs, education opportunities, a lower cost of living, or simply seeking a change, according to studies by the US Census Bureau and the Pew Research Center.
Yet in these studies, almost 70% of respondents ranked family high among the things they value and noted that family gives them a sense of meaning. Family weddings, new grandchildren, first days at school, sports achievements—these are all cherished milestones in life that we want to share with loved ones, even if they can’t be there at the time.
It’s also about knowing your relatives, understanding your roots, and passing on those amazing life stories that everyone wants to hear, yet there never seems to be time for—even when you are back together for family and friend reunions. Years after my grandfather passed away, I learned by chance that he’d spent two years in the Australian Bush before he married my grandmother. How I wish I’d heard his stories from that experience and could share them with other family members.
Staying Connected with Family Far Away is Easier Than Ever Before
With the advent of the internet, video calls, and more affordable travel options, staying connected has become easy and common. A few hundred years ago when our ancestors set sail to distant shores, they rarely, if ever, saw those they loved again. Today, there are many more ways to withstand the distance and maintain strong family ties than even just 20 years ago, when camcorders weighed several pounds and digital technology needed an IT department to manage.
Top Tips and Advice on Staying Connected
Even if you are lucky enough to be able to spend the holidays together, which sometimes I can, it can still be a struggle to stay close and keep up with what’s happening in each other’s lives.
Here are seven top tips for staying connected as a long-distance family without missing out on the regular joys and laughter.
- Use an app that allows you to share photos, videos, posts, and other content in a safe, private environment that is easy for older people to use and navigate. The more collaboration and communication features it offers, the better.
- Find an interest or hobby you have in common with other family members or friends and share it through an app that lets you keep the conversation going and celebrate your achievements together.
- Create a group chat to regularly reach out and message family and friends, even with short snippets that simply let everyone know you’re thinking about them. A thoughtful note lets them feel you there in spirit and shows you care.
- Keep photos around the home to remind you of your loved ones. Even in this digital age, it’s possible to download photos and get reprints done quickly and in high resolution. You can even personalize them into a book or special album.
- Share family traditions and stories. Posting Grandma’s delicious pasta recipes is a great way to share her legacy and a taste of home. You might even create new fun traditions, such as whacky photo challenges and video birthday cards. Our family fun tradition is Snookums, a black-cat glove puppet that takes turns going on vacation with different family members. Each family member has to post photos and tales of Snookums’ adventures and then mail him on to the next person.
- Organize monthly video calls. While many of us enjoy video calls with certain family members and friends more often than others, having a regular call where everyone knows to block the calendar that day each month, is a great way to stay in touch. I have a video call the first Sunday of every month with a group of girlfriends from high school who are now scattered across several countries, and the love and support we still provided each other is inspiring.
- Start an online family newsletter to keep loved ones up to date on how you are all doing and invite each member of the family to contribute about their activities and adventures over the course of the year.
These are just a few ideas I’ve found useful, and there are lots more you could try. It’s important to remember, however, that staying in touch means more than just text messages and the occasional phone call. It requires building and maintaining relationship bonds through conversations and sharing that is balanced, where everyone can participate, know that their voice is being heard.
Take Time to Connect and Nurture Bonds
More importantly, staying connected with family and friends takes time and effort. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and then wake up one day and suddenly realize it’s been three weeks since you heard from anyone.
Personally, I’ve gotten in the habit of blocking off time on my calendar every few days to take a break from my busy schedule and use Kinscape to stay connected. There are many options out there to communicate and stay in touch from a distance, but Kinscape gives me everything I need to nurture and cherish bonds with family and friends.
Its private, secure environment offers more than just social media features and is easy for older aunts, uncles, and grandparents to use. All my content is kept safe and secure in my own private Vault, and I get to decide who sees what and when. Every time.
Communities that Come Alive
One of the things I love most about Kinscape is that I can create communities, invite family members to join, and let everyone share their photos, videos, and other posts in complete privacy and safety. No distracting ads to worry about, and no one’s tracking everything we do or trying to find ways to sell our data.
I have several communities set up already to help me stay in touch with family. One is for my immediate family so we can all post regular updates. Just recently, my niece posted delightful photos from her first-ever skydive and the delight on her face, was priceless.
I also have a community for my cousins where the focus is more on sharing tips for dealing with aging parents, news related to distant relatives, and information about our hometown. Since most of us have moved away, it’s great to hear local news from those who still live there.
And these family communities are in addition to my girl-friend community, my book club, and my hiking group. Although it does take time and effort to keep connected this way, the Kinscape app on my smartphone is incredibly easy to use and has some pretty cool features that make uploading and sharing quick and simple.
Stories for Generations to Come
Another feature I especially enjoy and use a lot, is the Story feature. Not only can I create a story and add video, photos, even voice recordings, but I can decide when to publish it, who to share it with, and whether to let anyone else collaborate on pulling it together. So far, I’ve been able to document a wealth of family stories, going back to my great, great grandparents’ journey to America and including how my Dad’s older brother survived polio before the vaccine.
Most recently, I started mapping out our family tree and used features in Kinscape to organize and document our ancestors. The research took forever, but I was able to invite a couple of my cousins to collaborate, and together we built out an amazing family book covering seven generations. It’s been such fun sharing it in my family communities and reading the comments and reactions.
Since I set up the different communities, I’ve also been able to group message them and make a point to regularly check in with each group to see how everyone is doing. It certainly makes keeping in touch easy and fun.
Virtual Hugs are Good for the Soul, too
Although nothing replaces the feel of a hug and the touch of a hand in yours, staying in contact is vital for long-distance families, and there’s a lot of documented evidence that enjoying positive family relationships is important to your senses of well-being and health. Consider it giving your soul a virtual hug.
Therefore, we owe it to our families and to ourselves to find memorable ways of staying connected, especially since modern technology makes easier than ever before. While I still enjoy the art of letter writing and always look forward to receiving parcels and letters in the mail from friends and family, being able to reach out and instantly connect, enjoy family photos and videos, and catch up on the latest family gossip from the comfort of my own armchair is also something I cherish these days.
Kinscape makes it easy and safe.