Family & Education

7 Ways to Stay Connected With Extended Family

BY Barbara Danza TIMEOctober 21, 2018 PRINT

Not long ago, families stayed together. I’m not talking about just nuclear families, but generations of families and extended family members who tended to live within close proximity to one another, supporting and taking part in each others’ lives.

It was how the history, traditions, values, and culture of each family would be passed down and cherished.

Today, families more often live scattered across a wider geographical range, seeing each other infrequently, perhaps over holidays, or perhaps only every few years. Though we have access to various technologies that aim to increase our connectedness, we seem to be experiencing less and less real connections in our lives.

Family relationships are unlike any other. They incarnate a shared heritage and offer insight into ourselves and the world around us. When generations interact, our experiences are richer and our understanding of life is more enlightened. It is a gift to foster positive relationships between children and extended members of the family.

So, given the hectic pace of modern life and the geographical distance that separates many family members, how can we foster such connections?

Here are some ideas.

Become Pen Pals

An especially fun experience for children to share with older generations, establish a pen-pal relationship. Not only does such a practice allow kids to develop their handwriting and composition skills, they can ask questions, send along artwork, and offer their ideas to their pen pals. Retired family members may have more free time and love receiving physical mail from their younger relatives. The letters become family keepsakes that each party treasures.

Send Care Packages

When family members are far away, the warmth of sharing homemade treats or gifts of appreciation get lost. However, you can show your relatives you’re thinking of them by putting together a care package. What a joy to receive such a package that includes homemade favorites and other items selected especially with the recipient in mind.

Sharing simple gifts with loved ones is just as rewarding for the giver. Simply set out a box and begin filling it up with items you know they’ll love. When it’s full, ship it off to your loved ones.

Book a Getaway

Of course, nothing is better than face-to-face connection and what better way to connect in person than on vacation. Take the effort to find a weekend or week where everyone is available, even if you have to plan a year in advance. Book your getaway and enjoy anticipating the fun you’ll have with your distant relatives. When the time arrives, soak up the time together. You may find these become the fondest memories of your life.

Chronicle Family Traditions

A fun, long-term project to scrapbook or digitally chronicle your family’s traditions and customs is a worthwhile one. Once complete, make copies and share with your entire family. This is something that could be passed down for generations.

Research Your Family Tree

Similarly, use online resources and interviews with your family members to devise your family tree. Go back as far as you can and record your results in a format you can share. What a treasure to know the history of your family.

Open Your Home

No matter the size, make your home a welcome place for family to visit. Let them know they are always welcome, or invite family at specific times to visit. Ensure your home is always ready to accept guests. Your family members will likely reciprocate the invitation and you may find yourself in the presence of your family members more often throughout the year.

Plan a Reunion

The ultimate family gathering—a family reunion—is a great way to gather all of the family members you can find in one location for a celebration of the bond you share. Take the initiative and become the planner of a family reunion. You can combine many of the ideas above to enhance the reunion. What a treat to have your entire family congregate and connect.


Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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