Well, summer is in full swing now, and my husband and I just got back from visiting our niece in Virginia. She is almost two, is of course absolutely adorable, and we had a fantastic time with her (and her parents). Because she lives so far away, we have really only seen her a handful of times since she was born, and we are always heartbroken to leave her. We worry that she will forget us, that she won't recognize us, and so forth. Also, because we were so close with our extended families growing up, it's tough to imagine her not also being close to us – both emotionally and physically.
I think that more and more people are finding themselves living away from various family members. When I was a kid, my entire family lived in our city or the next town over, and we saw each other ALL THE TIME. Seriously, I think I saw every single member of my family at least once a week, and I was as close to my cousins as I was to my brother. As adults, many of us have moved away, and we no longer see each other at church, at the grocery store, or just around.
So, the question is, how can we maintain a feeling of connectedness to our family members, even when we live several states – or several countries – away? I'm no expert – we've only been at this for a few years – but here are some things that have worked for us:
* Make a family photo album. Before my niece was even born, my sister-in-law started putting together a photo album of family members – kind of like flashcards. There are also pictures attached to a mobile in her room. Our niece has learned our names and faces this way, so she always recognizes us.
* Take advantage of technology. We not only talk on the phone, but also use Skype, which allows us to see our niece, and better interact with her. Skype sometimes feels awkward to us, but we try to connect this way as often as possible – it's the next best thing to actually being in the room with our loved ones.
* Make time together about quality, not quantity. So we can't see our niece every weekend, but our visits feel so special to us, and we really strive to make the most of them. Most recently, we were with our niece every moment she was awake, which helped us bond with her more.
Of course, we wish that we lived closer so we could see our family more, but the above strategies help ease our time away just a little bit. If you spend time away from the ones you love and have tips to make it even easier, I would love to hear them!
Here are some more ideas on staying connected:
Julie is the Director of our Providence, RI location. Read more about Julie.