As I’ve mentioned before, my immediate family lives in Nova Scotia and my husband’s lives in New Brunswick. We have been living in BC for over a decade and now call it home.. This makes it challenging to stay in touch but we have figured out what works for us and our relationships are richer because of them.
I wrote this post a couple of years ago for a blog that is sadly no longer available. Since we have expanded our technological horizons since then I thought this would be a great time to revisit some of my tips for staying connected when you live away, and when air travel is only an option once a year.
1. Skype – Without a doubt this has been the number one tool for making sure our kids get to know their grandparents even though they can’t visit with them in person all the time. We have Skype dates every Sunday with Nanny & Poppy Hicks and Nanny & Grampy Simmonds. They get to watch them grow in person instead of just through pictures and they get to hear and see them, and can put a face to the voice they hear on the phone. We only have a laptop in our house but I think it is the best option with busy kids. We can follow them and we have been able to take our parents on virtual tours of our house and garden. Skype also works with friends and is a great tool for attending special events when you can’t be there in person.
2. Telephone (iPhones to be specific) – The obvious one but important none-the-less. We disconnected our land line a while ago and opted to have two iPhones instead. Not only does it save us money but it also means we can talk to our friends and family no matter where we are. This is definitely helpful given the four-hour time difference between us and our families. Just make sure your plan includes an unlimited national talk and text plan or else it could get expensive. My husband and I are still stuck in 3GS iPhone land (no front camera) but my Mom, brother, and sister-in-law all have iPhones and iPads so they use facetime to stay connected. Once we upgrade this will be another great option for us as well.
3. Email – Mass group emails updating everyone at once are great if you are strapped for time. It’s the virtual version of the annual update letter that usually appears in cards during the holidays. I used to send individual emails to everyone so they were more personalized and it was very time-consuming, which is where my number four comes in.
4. Blog – Once upon a time I use to write a family blog that highlighted our family adventures. When I started simply be me I found it too difficult to keep up with both so that one fell to the wayside. But it’s a great way to share photos and stories with all of our friends and family without having to upload pictures to email messages so that’s why I recently decided to start including more family stuff on here along with my running and fitness posts. I always try to include a lot of pictures and fun antidotes that I think the family will enjoy. This means carrying around a camera (or phone camera) with you all the time so you don’t miss out on key adventures. It also means you may feel like you are repeating yourself when you actually tell the story in person, but do this too because no one wants to communicate by blog alone
5. Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) – This seems like the obvious choice too but not when certain people (namely my husband, Nanny & Poppy Hicks, and Nanny & Grampy Simmonds) are not connected to social networks. I mainly use these to stay in touch with friends from high school and University, and with a few cousins, Aunts and Uncles. I also seem to be the link between my husband and a few of his friends since he wants nothing to do with Facebook. He has embraced Instagram though so there’s that. I love, love, love Instagram. I have it connected to my Twitter and Facebook accounts so any pictures I post there also post to my other accounts. But since my parents are not on IG either I always make sure I text the same pictures of the kids that I upload there to them. Some of their friends follow me so it wouldn’t be fair them to miss out just because they don’t *do* social media.
6. Walmart Photocentre and Shutterfly – Where would I be without Walmart’s online Photocentre. In a matter of minutes I can upload and order a bunch of pictures and have them printed at any Walmart in Canada – in an hour! I simply send the recipient an email and they go pick them up – for cheap too. When I want to send a picture of higher quality I use Shutterfly. It takes a bit longer but it’s worth the wait for special family photos.
So there you have it. My tips for maintaining meaningful relationships with family and friends when you live far away. Our kids know who their grandparents are even if they can’t have sleepovers and play-dates on a regular basis. If you have any other tips I would love to hear about them.