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How to stay in touch with long distance family

Grandparents making a video call

The saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” might well be true to a certain extent. However, living a long way from those nearest and dearest to you can take its toll on everyone involved.

Grandchildren grow quickly and important milestones such as a first word can happen in the blink of an eye, while other family members want to share important news.

In this article, we spoke to bloggers who gave us their tips and advice on how to keep in touch with loved ones who live far away.

Sign up for photo and newsletter apps

If both parties have Smartphones it is worth signing up to a photo-sharing app, suggests Victoria from Lylia Rose. Her husband’s family live in Germany, including his grandmother who is in her 90s.

Victoria explained: “Whilst we have been fortunate enough to travel there with our children five times in the past eight years, we can’t always make the trip each year as airline tickets to the nearest airport are very expensive. We always send birthday and Christmas cards with a letter and photos, but we felt this wasn’t enough so for the past six months or so we signed up to a smartphone app called Neveo.”

Neveo allows users to upload their favourite photos from their phones and the app automatically collates them into a monthly family newsletter which can then be posted directly to family members no matter where they are in the world.

Victoria told us she favours this method of staying in touch with family: “It’s an amazing way for my husband’s grandmother to see what we have been up to and to feel connected to her great-grandchildren as they grow so quickly. Every time she receives the photo booklet, she calls Ben on his mobile to thank him. Unfortunately, we don’t speak German and only know odd words, but it’s lovely to hear her voice and we get the gist of what she’s saying.”

We also asked Victoria why it is important to make a special effort to stay in touch with relatives who live far away: “I think it’s really important to show older family members that they are remembered and in our thoughts, especially if they live far away or, as in our case, they live abroad.  It helps to make them feel connected to the family and if they don’t use social media or have an email account then sending photos helps them to feel a part of major life events such as family birthdays that they are unable to attend in person.”

Schedule in Video calls

Technology really can help make staying in touch with long-distance relatives easier. Chats such as Facebook video calling or Skype are just two ways families who live miles apart can stay in touch.

Many older people are becoming increasingly confident with modern technology as it allows them to stay connected with friends and family. This is important for those with mobility issues who aren’t able to get out of the house often or rely on mobility aids such as stair lifts.

Lola from Lolita Bonita has family members abroad and staying in touch with the help of video calling has helped make the distance bearable: “A few years after my uncle moved to Africa we almost forced a computer upon my nana. She was adamant she never wanted one, or the internet, and now I couldn't imagine her without it. She regularly Skype calls him along with other members of the family such as myself, my brother and my mum.”

There is something incredibly comforting about not only being able to hear your loved ones’ voices but also to see them on the screen. You can see each other’s facial expressions and surroundings and it can often feel like there is no distance between you at all.

Grandparents and grandchildren can read books together during a video call or sing songs which helps keep families who live apart still very much a big part of each other’s lives. It is worth setting up a weekly call at a convenient time for everyone, that way all members of the family can be ready and prepared for a catch-up. Spontaneous video calls are great for when there is important news to share.

Making traditional phone calls

Woman talking on a mobile phone

If video calling is not possible then having a chat over the phone is just as good says Lolita: “I think it's also important to remember the good old-fashioned phone call. I often ring my nana for chats and she always thanks me afterwards for calling. I think it makes her feel that I am always thinking of her and she's not alone.”

Some people like to schedule in a “good morning” and a “good night” call to family members. These calls can be as long or short as desired, but simply hearing a loved one’s voice can really put a spring in your step ready for the day ahead, or make you feel relaxed and comforted before bedtime.

Send a postcard

Sending a postcard is a great way to brighten up someone’s day, especially if family members are not confident with technology, or they don’t have a computer or mobile phone. Postcards are a fun, colourful and an inexpensive way to say hello.

Paulina from Paulina on the Road has been living abroad for the last six years. Her top tip for staying in touch with family is to send small gifts, images and postcards. She explained: “My grandmother doesn't have modern technology, that's why I send her a postcard from everywhere I go. She loves them and collects them.”

She also sends a magazine to her grandmother which contains all her social media posts and adventures from her blog.

Paulina also told us why she thinks it is important to make an effort to keep family members in her thoughts: “It shows them that they matter and that you did not forget them. They also have so many stories to tell and I love to hear them. My grandmother tells me old stories about our family. This lets me know where I come from and, despite the distance, I feel close to them.”

Send a parcel or letter

Older person holding a soft toy bear

Once a month set time aside to write a long letter with nice stationery or create a thoughtful parcel full of the receiver’s favourite items. Either way, they will love opening a special piece of post.

These suggestions are a great way to keep in touch if family members don’t own tablet devices or mobile phones. If a grandchild is writing to a grandparent then colourful paintings and drawings can also be included in the letter.

Care packages or personalised hampers are a special treat which can be enjoyed by people of all ages. A parcel can include simple things such as the person’s favourite tea and biscuits, or toys and magazines if the recipient is a child.

If a grandchild has a creative flair then small, light-weight items such as a salt dough ornament or a piece of artwork using hand or footprints is bound to be appreciated.  

Sending snail mail is something Lola also likes to send to her grandmother: “Little things like sending flowers when she's ill or sending birthday cards on time all go a long way.”

Having regular catch ups or sending or receiving something thoughtful in the post are just some of the ways family members can stay in touch with each other. Due to long distances, it sometimes isn’t possible to see each other face to face on a regular basis, but these tips will help make you feel a part of each other’s lives.

This news article is from Companion Stairlifts. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.