When you were deciding where to buy your house, a big part of the reason that you chose your current location was because it was close to family. And yet, you see those nearby family members much less often than you had hoped and you find yourself feeling rather distant from them even though they’re just a short drive away. You are not alone, and in many ways it is only natural that despite your best intentions to be close with family, that it actually takes effort to maintain those relationships – geography alone is not enough, especially when everyone is so busy. So we’ve come up with five simple and fun ideas to help you feel closer to those close-by family members without clearing your weekly schedule. Try choosing just one or two and let us know how it goes!
- Listen to an audiobook together. This option is great for families with kids and teens who have cousins around their age. Choose a book to listen to simultaneously and choose a reasonable date to finish by. Audiobooks can be listened to in the car on the way to school and other activities and so it doesn’t have to impact your schedule too much. On the date you set, get together for a Family Book Talk. You can even choose the menu and do some light decorations inspired by the book. This way, when you get together you can jump right in talking about the book without any awkward time lost on warming up again. You might be surprised at the wonders of bonding that experiencing a book together can create. Two good resources we found for audiobooks are: Loyal Books which has a decent selection of young adult classics for free, with no registration required. Also, the Random House Listening Library has a large, nicely categorized, and very up-to-date selection of audiobooks for kids and young adults. And if you’ve got 8-12 year olds, we have heard excellent reviews of the brand-new Ratscalibur by Josh Lieb, for a funny and charming read, or rather, listen :).
- Create an EverMinder group. One of the more frustrating moments is when you miss a family member’s birthday, especially when they live near by and you could’ve done something nice for them or just called them up, but you forgot and you’re kicking yourself for this small missed opportunity for connection – big fat forehead slap on this one. But keeping up with all those dates is nearly impossible with a growing family and hectic schedules. But if you set up your EverMinder group just once, you’ll get those reminders straight to your email with a link to send a message or even a gift. It’s free to use forever, and if you add in your family members’ email addresses, they too will get those reminders from you straight to their inbox. Then, all thanks to you there will be many more birthday wishes flowing in the family – just the kind of thing that helps people feel more connected to their family even if they don’t see them all the time.
- Set up an Absentee Potluck. We just made up this term but we absolutely love the idea. Choose a time – ideally Sunday night either once or twice a month – where you meet up with family members to exchange ready-made dinners for the week. Here’s how it works: each family makes a double batch of the dinner item of their choice – say lasagna or chili – and then exchange one with each other that Sunday night. That way each family has an extra ready-made dinner, and a night during the week where they’re eating the dinner that the other family made for them, a really nice way to show you’re thinking of each other and also help them out a bit with their week. To add extra cuteness, drop in a note from your family to theirs!
- Video chat with them. I know what you’re thinking, “I didn’t need a blog post about keeping in touch with family to tell me to video chat.” However! People often treat video chat as an amazing tool for keeping in touch with relatives who live far from them, and underestimate the value of video chatting with those nearby. Since you can actually see each other while talking, video chat has that special effect that makes it seem as if you’re hanging out together, and not just talking. So take advantage, even for a short chat while you’re doing the dishes or to show them the artwork your kid brought home that day. There’s a special intimacy about those little chats that provide a window into each others’ daily lives so don’t be afraid to fit them in where you can.
- Be spontaneous! Most of us tend to think that the best way to make sure you see someone is to schedule, schedule, schedule. But when you know it’s on the calendar for three weeks from now, it can actually make you less likely to just stop by, see if they’re free for a quick coffee, or randomly go for a late movie together. Spontaneous get-togethers don’t have to include everyone – it can be one-on-one or two-on-two, whoever is available right then. This is one of the major pluses of having family who live close by – you’re close enough that with even short notice you might be able to squeeze in an informal meetup. These can be short and sweet but they keep the connection going with a sense of closeness rather than waiting for special occasions. Go ahead, try it, you just might like it.
There’s really no need to be down on yourself about not being in as great of touch as you would like with those you love, this happens to everyone. Just choose something from the list and give it a try, or use one of the suggestions on the list as a conversation starter with those nearby family members to decide together how to make sure you stay close the way you want to and that the kids do too.
Hope you found this helpful, we’d love to hear your thoughts and additional ideas in the comments!