How to stay connected with family when they’re far away

I was 22 years old when I moved away from my home state of California and ventured south to Louisiana where my husband was stationed in the military. While I physically moved away, a piece of my heart stayed with the family I left behind—my mom, dad and brother.

As excited as I was for the new adventure, I felt a bit of a void from not being able to see them all the time and share memories in person together, like we had for so many years.

Despite being several states away, we managed to stay connected. This became even more important to me after my daughter, Emma, was born. It is still a huge priority today. I want her to know how amazing her grandparents and uncle are. I want her to share great memories with them.

So, we make the effort—whether it be through video calls, or occasional visits.

At one point or another, we may all experience living far away from our loved ones. It’s hard to bond when life takes you in different directions—whether it be for college or work opportunities. However, it’s not impossible to remain close and share moments together.

Here are some ways you can keep that relationship strong, and ensure it withstands the distance:

Make time for quality communication.

This is a huge one in my household. No matter how busy and hectic times get, my parents and I try to video chat at least once a week. We do this so they can see me and their grandchild and just catch up and talk about how everything is going.

They get to hear about the exciting things happening for me and my family, talk and play with their granddaughter and see all the new things she’s learning. Even though they aren’t living in Colorado with us, it’s as if they’re here with us, anyway.

So, take a break from the books and the busy routine and pick up the phone and talk to your family members. Don’t wait to miss them before calling. Make it a regular thing that you can look forward to.

Send thoughtful notes, cards or care packages.

Just because you’re not present physically, doesn’t mean you can’t surprise your family with a sweet note, card or care package so they can feel your presence in spirit. This is a special surprise that lets your family members know you’re thinking about them and care.

I try and surprise my family with packages containing crafts Emma has made them during important holidays or special occasions, like birthdays. Something that makes them feel a little closer to us, and that they can look at and think of us.

Write your loved one a nice note via email or social media letting them know you appreciate them. Or go the snail-mail route and make or buy them a card to send them, that they won’t be expecting and will be excited to open.

If you want to create something a little more personal, send them a care package—which can be made up of things they enjoy, or photos of you on your adventures in the place you now call home.

Keep your loved ones present in your home.

You can accomplish this by having photos of family or heirlooms that have been passed down on display in your house. It’ll help you feel connected with them, especially when the distance gets to be a little hard and you’re feeling a bit lonely.

Family traditions are also a good way to keep your family close to your heart, even when they aren’t living close to you physically. Take things that you did regularly with them, and implement them in your own household.

One big family tradition I’ve kept and implemented with my own little family has been family dinners. No matter how busy we get, we always sit down and eat together as a family, just like my husband and I did with our own families growing up in California. We also have recipes passed down to us from our loved ones that we like to cook to remember them.

Plan exciting visits with one another.

While visits are a little more difficult to plan, it’s important to have them if you’re able to. It’s exciting going back home to visit and reminisce on all the important memories you share. Likewise, it’s also fun to have your family members visit you where you live, and show them all the places you love and the things you are proud of.

These visits are especially important to me because it’s a chance Emma has to really spend some quality time with her grandparents, and make memories in person with them while we can.

And seeing the excited look on her face when she sees her grandparents warms my heart. The memories they create together are priceless—whether it’s my mom and daughter laughing as they chased one another in the hall of a hotel in New Orleans or my dad experiencing and enjoying the beautiful Colorado mountains with this granddaughter.

Make the most of these limited opportunities, because they don’t happen every day. And the happiness these visits will bring you is so rewarding and worth every penny. 

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Vivian Gatica Lopez

Vivian Gatica Lopez is a writer based in Colorado Springs, CO. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Long Beach, and a passion for storytelling.