Last week we received a plea from Meridian writer and reader Carolyn Allen, who wanted to know how people are keeping in touch with relatives who live far away. We didn’t receive a truckload of letters, but the ones we got were good ones. Here they are:
As a grandfather of 12 (who are located in Boston, London, Seattle, Portland, and Arizona), the following activities have proven helpful in my efforts to stay in touch with our grandkids:
- Making phone calls — not just on birthdays and holidays, but “out of the blue,” allowing us to swap jokes and keep current on our daily lives;
- Scheduling web cam visits that include Grandpa being silly with toy animals, playing his guitar, and doing the things that make him Grandpa;
- Sending monthly shipments of Grandpa’s homemade caramel corn in individualized snack bags;
- Mailing inexpensive joke books or riddle books;
- Mailing packages of beautiful rocks and seashells from my collections;
- Mailing them a yearly calendar that fits their age and interests (and which, hopefully, reminds them of Grandma & Grandpa!);
- Sending letters containing funny drawings, a few sheets of stickers, newspaper or magazine clippings;
- Zipping off e-mail messages in colored fonts, containing jokes and riddles;
- Forwarding interesting e-photos or videos of animals, places, people, astronomy, and other things that make them think;
- Sending e-mails that contain photos of them and us during our visits together;
- Sending e-mails containing photos of their cousins, aunts and uncles whom we visit;
- Creating homemade DVD slide shows (with background music) of our visits with them, or highlighting events in our daily life or our travels;
- Inviting them (and their parents) to periodically re-visit the Lauritsen Legacy family history I wrote 10 years ago and which each family has a copy of.
I’ll be looking forward to gleaning ideas submitted by your other grandparent-readers.
Ed D. Lauritsen, Ph.D.
Show Low, Arizona
What an amazing list, Ed! It makes me want to sign up to be one of your grandkids, although I suspect I’m the same age as you. Bummer.
I consider myself a techno-challenged person. I have no desire to own a phone that is smarter than I. However, I do love a good Skype chat with my beautiful granddaughter who lives in another state.
My sis moved to another state a couple of years ago and I was heartbroken. A regular cell phone with texting suffices us to be in touch with a great deal of consistency.
One of my dearest friends lives across the country and has now for 25 years. We also text and call and meet for vacations.
I keep in touch with my nieces and nephews and am able to watch their children grow and change by participating in Facebook.
There may be other, more fancy ways to keep in touch, and frankly, sometimes I wish we could all be together all the time, but what little bit of technology I have picked up keeps me in touch with those I love. It will just have to suffice until we leave this mortal plane!
Tess in Vegas
Tess, for someone who is techno-challenged, you’re doing a pretty good job of faking it. Good for you! Maybe one day I’ll follow your example and investigate the dreaded cell phones.
We enjoy using Skype with several of our children.
I write a little newsletter for the teenage cousins called Teentalk. I do it quarterly. I give a sentence or two about each teen in the family and include some photos. I send a copy to each teen through the mail.
We designate teens as anyone aged 12 to 20. Each one gets his own copy — even in the same family. We mention good books the kids are reading as well.
It’s always fun to get something in the mail! My husband writes an article each time entitled, “Grandpas’ Corner.”
Those are great ideas, Nancy. It’s especially important to give each family member his own copy of the newsletter, too. Perhaps some of them will eventually be inspired to make scrapbooks. The monthly issue of Teentalk would be a valuable addition to these personal histories.
We live in Southern California and have three married daughters. One lives in San Diego (a two- hour drive from us), one lives in Utah, and one lives in Minnesota.
When each of our girls left for BYU we began a tradition where they would block out time in their day every Sunday to “officially” call us and tell us about their weekly exploits — their classes, dating escapades, and whatever else came to mind. After they married and moved away, they continued this tradition and “officially” call us each Sunday without fail.
Our family is set up on “i-chat” where we can talk to each other via the computer and can see each other as well as hear each other. This gives us a wonderful opportunity for our children and grandchildren to still see us frequently even if it’s not in person. Often during the week, we’ll get a phone call that one of the grandkids wants to show us something on i-chat. It really is the next best thing to actually being able to physically be there and has deepened our bond and relationship with our children and grandchildren.
I think having that specific time set aside once a week for a catch-up on things with our family has been a wonderful way to keep in touch.
One more important tool I forgot to mention is the use of blogs. All of our daughters have created and regularly update a blog. Their blogs include funny things their kids have said or done, musings, general updates on their families, and pictures of the kids and family participating in family, sports, and other activities. Their blogs are a great way for my husband and me to feel like we’re keeping in touch with their growing families.
Thanks for mentioning blogs, Cheryl. I just started one of my own (https://planetkathy.com/blog/), in the hope of making some actual income. I haven’t made a red cent except from a charitable donation that came from a friend in our war, but the blog has helped me connect with a sister in a way I didn’t think would be possible. Plus, it makes a great journal! I’m a great fan of blogs and am glad your family has discovered them too.
- We have made a calendar with all the birthdays and pictures that would be of interest, and give them out to the children each Christmas. I see each of my five children using the calendars in the home each year. It is a good connection reminder.
- Do a family blog (either private or not) that has photos of the cousins and description of activities and/or letters from missionaries and other keepsakes. This is a very good connection method.
Wayne W Summers
The calendar is a great suggestion, Wayne. I get one from my husband every year. This is what a month looks like:
When I left home back in the late 60’s my mother’s letters were a much anticipated and cherished treasure.
She didn’t write weekly, but when she wrote her letters were sometimes 5-10 pages typed and single spaced volumes that I read hungrily for news of home and family. I have kept most of those letters, and she kept mine, and together they are a precious history of those years.
As my own children have grown and left the nest, I, like so many others, was enticed by the ease and instant gratification of email. It didn’t take long however to realize that if those communications are not saved in some fashion they are lost to future generations and history in general.
Then blogging came along and I recognized in it something more permanent and creative, which appeals to my artistic nature as well as my desire to keep a personal history. I love blogging! It is my “letter” to my children and grandchildren, complete with photos and videos and recipes and crafts and quotes, and whatever else is on my mind at the time.
Most of my children keep blogs as well. Some post weekly and some only occasionally, whenever they can fit it in, just as if we were writing letters back and forth. Plus, there are companies that can take a blog and print it up as a full-color book. It’s not quite the same as pulling out a bundle of my mother’s letters, but far better than email. Of course, email still comes in handy for certain things, like reminding my boys to check the blog.
I have tried Facebook, and those disjointed conversations make little sense to me in terms of real communication and personal history. Skype, on the other hand, is great for helping us to feel “together” when far apart and keeping track of our grandkids’ growth.
What a neat idea, Louise, to compile a family blog into a book! I’ve found a couple of sites — https://lifehacker.com/157922/turn-your-blog-into-a-book and https://www.blurb.com/create/book/blogbook, and although I haven’t used either one they both look promising. Thanks for the tip!
Our family has been far-flung for years. One son is a colonel in the US Air Force, and another has been an international businessman. Not one of our five children live in the same state with my wife and I.
We use every form of communications known to man: we actually write letters (though less since my wife had two strokes two weeks after our fifty wedding anniversary celebration where all our family members, except two on missions, were present); we have a couple of rarely-visited blogs; several of us are on Facebook; we call frequently (even internationally) thanks to VOIP; since my wife has been bedbound, our children try to come visit us as frequently as they can.
The internet seems to be the best means of communication. It worked very well when my sister celebrated her 75th and 76th birthdays on a proselyting mission in Australia, from Arizona. Her large family (she had nine children) uses it very effectively, and most of our children have bonded with the Wiltbanks through the internet.
As for old-fashioned means, for those not yet into today’s media, my Dutch grandfather instituted what he called the Round Robin system of communication some 70 years ago. He sent a letter to his oldest child, who added her letter to his and sent it on, then the envelopes began to increase in size as it went, by age, to each of his children, when it got back to him, he took out the old letter and added a new one as did the next person, and so it continued for 30 years or so. It was a very special event when the Round Robin arrived. Our family gathered together and read each letter with interest.
Thanks for the advice about the Round Robin, Andre. Not everyone is confident using technology. This is a solution that still may work well for some families.
I have two married daughters who live too far away to visit often. We have a weekly phone conference, in which we visit, discuss an Ensign article, and set and account for goals. This helps us stay in touch. (I have unlimited long distance on my land line.) The preferred Christmas gift is to get them all together for Christmas.
I also signed up for Facebook when my fourth child went to BYU. It helps me keep up with my children, and has helped me reconnect with old friends and extended family as well.
I have a group of friends from my last place of residence; we get together one morning a week via Free Conference Calls.com. Those who have unlimited long distance place direct calls, and use three-way calling to include others.
My mother was born and raised in Kansas, and lived in Washington State from her mid-20s. She and her siblings had a Round Robin letter for decades. My husband’s family did a Round Robin letter for many years, then switched to a family website (MyFamily.com), where we post photos, news, and other items of interest. Of course we also have annual reunions.
Hope this is helpful.
The concept of free conference calls is going to be a new one to lots of readers, CK. Thanks for letting us know!
My great-grandsons live in Florida. Every Sunday they both call all their grandparents here in Utah. I love that their mother has them do this. They never miss, and when we are not here they leave a cute message. The parents can do so much so these children don’t forget how much they
What a sweet reminder, Fortunate! Parents, if you aren’t yet training your children to keep in touch with their grandparents (or to write thank you notes, for that matter), it isn’t too late!
My family are hundreds of miles away from me and I rarely see them. We keep in touch via email and telephone, and swap ideas on Twitter. When we do meet up, it’s always great to see them and the years just melt away.
Thanks for mentioning Twitter, Vim. That’s a hard one for me because I have to write such short sentences, but it’s often the only way my husband and I can keep in touch when he’s at work.
My children and I correlated and are all with the same cell-phone company that allows us to call others who subscribe to the same company with no added-up minutes and no long-distance charges. This way we can talk all we want with each other. For extended family, there’s Facebook, and we do post on Facebook! If we don’t want to post in such a public forum, we email the private stuff.
Bruce T. Forbes
Thanks for mentioning Facebook, Bruce. Facebook subscribers, you may not know that the new, “improved” version of Facebook allows you to customize what you receive from Facebook friends. If you hover over a friend’s name and then click “subscribed” on the pop-up box that appears, you can customize what you receive from that person.
If, for example, you are completely overwhelmed by friends who feel compelled to record every bathroom visit or what they just ate for lunch, you can specify that you only get important updates from that person.
(I have “friends” in the get-a-life category who post fifty or more times in a single day!) And if people who keep sending you a broccoli are driving you crazy, you can unclick “games” from that same box and never see someone’s game status again. Sweet!
Our last letter today is a long one, but it’s got some great suggestions. Read it to the end!
Since I am part of a California family it is unfortunately all too familiar for us to spread all across the country. So I have more experience in this than I like to admit. Here are some suggestions:
- Most important, make those relationships a priority. Don’t just say, “Oh well.” This means that you may have to budget money to stay connected through some technology or visits. Just make it a priority.
- The next most important thing is to stay interested in their lives. Ask about school and sports. How is that new job? Is the baby sleeping through the night? How is that calling you have? Ask about friends and hobbies. Let them know that even if you aren’t around you still want to be a part of their life. I have seen some family members become uninterested in the goings-on of my children’s lives and quit asking. Needless to say, my kids are not close to those family members at all.
- Use the technology available. That will mean texting, Skype, Facebook or some other social network, email. phone calls and letters and cards. Even kids now have phones, so either use texting or learn to use it. This is the primary way they communicate for many of them. You can send pictures and funny things that you know they will like.
- Skype is a great way to have a face-to-face conversation in different places over the computer. You need to download the program and get a camera for the computer, although most laptops have them now. It’s not as good as being there but pretty close. I have taken tours of a new house with Skype. I heard a preschooler sing a song. You can even read a picture book to a child this way. You just type out the text on a paper for you to read while you hold the book up to the camera.
- With Facebook I can see the pictures from my family’s trips and events sometimes while they are still there. I can even comment on them. They will see the comments. We have a conversation! I can also post stuff I do straight from my smart phone so they can see what I am up to.
- I also try to make a big deal out of holidays and birthdays. Everyone should get a birthday card that I either made or hand-selected. A holiday like Halloween deserves to have some cute thing arrive in the mail for kids to get excited about. A decoration they can hang is something they may save for years to come. I still have the ones my mother sent my kids.
- Put aside money for trips to visit. Try really hard to spend big holidays together. My sister flew out from the East Coast every year with her husband for Christmas to be with my family and our parents for years. She also came for Easter. I drove across the country from the East Coast twice with four kids in the car to visit all the grandmas and grandpas in California. My parents also flew out to the East Coast to visit us every couple of years. When we went to California my parents in turn often planed some big trips to amusement parks, museums, zoos and such for when we visited to make the kids want to be there. When you visit, play games and get down to their level. Also accept that some kids may be standoffish if they haven’t seen you in a long time. Just be patient and persistent. My nephew is like that, and I kiss him anyway. After a day or two he settles down and accepts the attention from his aunt, uncle and cousins.
- Family reunions. Sometimes they are the only thing some parts of a family will come and get together for. Work to actually plan them when everyone can attend. You may have to make some sacrifices but family should be worth it.
I love my family. It is very important to me to be connected to them. It takes time effort and money but these relationships are supposed to last for eternity so I need to work on making them strong now.
Thanks, In Touch (and all the rest of you as well) for such great suggestions.
Let’s see about starting a new topic next week. Stay tuned!
Until next time — Kathy
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Whether you want to create your own personal history or would like Kathy Kidd to do it for you, Kathy’s blog has what you’re looking for. Go to www.planetkathy.com and click on “Writing a Personal History” to get more information.