Living 1,307 miles away from our closest family members can make staying in touch a bit of a challenge. Growing up, my husband and I were blessed to be very close to family and grandparents. Those relationships greatly influenced our childhoods and who we are today. One of our biggest desires is for family to be an integral part of our daughter’s life as well.
There is no way around it; keeping in touch takes a little time and effort; but we choose to make it a top priority. It’s impossible to quantify the results; but trust me it’s a high ROI (return on investment) and well worth your time, as so few things are these days.
Here are some ideas that work well for us, and many of them won’t even take up that much of your time or finances.
- Picture-a-day: Every day we try to text a picture of L to the grandparents; nothing fancy, just to show daily life at the Franzen house and how she’s growing and changing.
- Short videos: Again nothing elaborate; just email a quick video from the phone of us playing at the park or having dinner.
- Photos of Family Around the House: Of course we have many frames on our mantel and hanging on the walls; but we also have toys and books to help L learn the names and faces of friends, family members, and even pets. We received these blocks as a gift from Grandma, and L loves them; so cute and such a good idea.
- Send Something Special: We love going for walks, and L often finds a pretty leaf or flower that she picks up along the way. After pressing it for a few days, we slip it in a greeting card or along with a picture she’s drawn.
- Skype, FaceTime, Google+ Hangouts: Thank goodness for technology! I love that we can do video calls from the computer, phone, or tablet and all for free. The phone is especially great to quickly involve family in everyday happenings.
- Recordable Books: Kids love their books just as much as the grandparents love reading to them. There are several recordable book options for sale through places like Hallmark and Amazon. We’ve taken it a step further and record our own as well. This can be done using a dedicated microphone (I’ll explain this process and the equipment we use in a future post), or you can download a free voice recorder app for your phone or tablet if one isn’t already installed. Grandma and Grandpa simply hit record, email the MP3 file to us, and now they are part of story time too.
- Games: If the kids are older, apps such as Words with Friends or online games of backgammon can be a great way to interact (just keep an eye on their opponents and that they are using the technology appropriately). If Great-Grandma isn’t quite that tech savvy, complete part of a crossword puzzle and send it to her to work on and send back.
- Online Photo Sharing: Sites like Shutterfly allow you to create online albums, and Dropbox provides mass storage and sharing of photos, documents, videos, and even music.
- Movie night: Have other family members watch the same show on TV (this is perfect during holiday programming) or watch a DVD. Send silly pics of everyone in their pajamas enjoying a bowl of popcorn. Do a double feature with one of the kids’ picks and one film that Grandma and Grandpa want to watch.
- Remember Special Occasions: Try to send cards for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. If you don’t have the time or resources to send physical ones, send free e-cards. When you’re the one throwing the party, send invites even if you know they cannot come. It helps family to feel included and see the theme for the big day.
- Crafts: Make a quilt using fabric from friends and family.
- Join Forces: Find a project to work on together. You could divide up tasks on the aforementioned quilt idea, take turns crocheting a blanket, map your family tree, or compile a cookbook of favorite recipes.
- Care Packages: Everyone, not just college students, enjoys getting a surprise package full of wonderful items. From regional treats and candy to novelty bandages and matchbox cars, it’s sure to brighten their day.
- Send a Stand-In: If you can’t be there in person, send a flat version of yourself. Attach your photo to a cardboard body cutout. Send it to your friends and family to include in activities and take pictures. You can also try this with one of your children’s toys (not the beloved one they can’t live without). Have the toy “go visit” Grandma and Grandpa to take around town or even just around the house in fun situations. Hopefully the toy will come home soon with photos and maybe a few souvenirs from the trip.
- Interview: Have the kids interview family members and try to get it recorded if possible. For a list of great questions to start with, check out the Sharing Stories Page.
- Book Club: Read the same book or study and make time to discuss every few chapters.
- Commit to Memory: Memorize the same bible verses, quotes, or help the kids with their homework and learn the state capitols. Call each other for pop quizzes or at the end of the week to see how progress is going.
- Build Something: Send random items (buttons, googly eyes, gears, pipe cleaners) and see what they can make.
- Get Creative: No one can resist adorable pieces of art hand-crafted from kids. Give the grandparents something to show off and cherish forever. Anything involving handprints or footprints is a definite win.
- Good Ol’ Phone Call: If all else fails and time gets away from you, it’s hard to beat just picking up the phone. Even a 10 minute call to check in and ask about the weather can make a world of difference.