From A Distance
Hi! Hope you’re having a wonderful week and that spring is really shining down on you.
On Sunday I talked a bit about building relationships through “Family Events.” But as Sally asked “How do you do that if you live 1700 miles away and can’t be there for all the holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries?” Good question Sally, and one that is so relevant to today’s society.
It’s the sense of connection and relationship building that we’re striving for here. When members of the family are spread out , with many miles in between, it’s more difficult, but not impossible to have that ongoing connection. Here are some tips to help:
* Set aside a time each week dedicated to phone calls or letter-writing to your parents or in-laws.
* Keep track of birthdays & anniversaries in a journal, your cell phone, or the computer. Utilize the reminder feature.
* Keep a stash of whimsical note cards or stationary that fits the personalities of your parents or in-laws.
* Send out those note cards with a recipe, inspirational quote, or article that caught your eye just to say hello.
* Send flowers and a thank you note to your mother on your birthday to tell her how much you love your life.
* Do the same for your mother-in-law on your spouse’s birthday thanking her for his/her life.
* Have your spouse write a few words to his/her mother on his/her birthday.
* Use social media, if your elders are computer savvy, to post pictures, send messages, and maybe even Skype.
Distance is only a barrier if we make it one so look for creative ways to remain in touch and show aging parents they are valued. Ask them to record stories from their lives on paper or by voice. This shows that you have an interest in their lives and meets the developmental need they have to feel that their lives have produced meaning for someone other than themselves.
If your mother loves to cook then get her to share her recipes. When you visit try to spend time with her in the kitchen. This is where she feels safe and is comfortable. If she likes to putter in the garden then focus your gifts around plants, seeds, or tools she can use (especially those that will make it easier for her as she ages).
If your father-in-law likes to tinker then ask him about his favorite tools or a time when he was especially proud of something he fixed or created. Have him send you pictures or diagrams if he has them. Again, this is where he is comfortable and he will be grateful for the validation of his talent.
The easiest way to make connections with someone is to step out of your own life and into theirs. It may only take a few minutes each week to do this, but the value gained is well worth the effort. By making the effort to build relationships you are establishing trust, building common ground, and paving the way for more open and cooperative discussions about planning and important issues for the future.
Is there a special tip or method you use to stay connected family “from a distance?” If so, I’d love to hear about it.
More on Sunday.