Making the Best of Long-Distance Family

Living beyond easy driving distance of your loved ones can be difficult, especially if you’re newly retired and finally have free time you’d like to spend with grandchildren or other relatives. Luckily, the technological advances of the last several years make bridging great distances easier than ever.

To build relationships at even great distances, try these tips.

  • Rethink your gift giving. Consider giving your family a trip out to see you for holidays or vacations—or flying into town to visit them. If that’s not possible, give gifts that make staying in touch easier, such as a digital camera or video recorder that can be used to send pictures and videos.
  • Take advantage of technology. Skype offers free video-chat software that anyone can download. Talking to loved ones face to face is much more intimate and rewarding than talking over the phone, and allows you to watch your grand-kids grow—or helps them become familiar with you, even if you don’t often get to talk in person.
  • Find a good travel rewards program. If you end up visiting frequently, be sure you’re getting travel rewards or points for it. Browse various airline and credit card offers to see what bonuses you can get for being on the road.
  • Build vacations that include visiting. Many families enjoy group vacations that offer interaction with far-away relatives. You can also offer to care for your grand-kids while their parents take a needed getaway.
  • Offer to be pen pals with one of your grand-kids. There’s a definite age window in which this might work, but it’s rewarding for both parties to get “real” mail from someone you care about. If your grandchild is up for the project, consider giving him or her a number of stamped envelopes to make things easier.

The key to building meaningful, lasting relationships with any family member is to maintain frequent contact. So even if you’re relying on brief emails to stay in touch, the important thing is to keep lines of communication open.

Have you found innovative ways to stay close to faraway family members? I’d love to hear about them—send me an email with your suggestions!

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