7 Ways To Connect With Your Extended Family
"Connected." We hear that phrase almost every day. Usually context for the word revolves around WiFi, video conferencing or social media. And although technological connectedness is important in many aspects of our lives, being connected to family is far more vital to the vitality and meaning of our lives.
Last night I called my great Aunt Lucy to wish her a happy 90th birthday. She shared fond memories of her birthday bash I missed (due to distance and work schedule) and info on her upcoming dance recitals (yes, at 90 years old - she still tap dances). My heart was warmed just listening to her voice and knowing she had a marvelous birthday celebration over the past week. I felt gratitude and love as we shared the details of our lives with each other.
I love my Aunt Lucy. And I don't love her just because she's my aunt. I love her because I know her. I know something of her personality, her childhood, her interests and her love of family. She and I have made efforts over decades to keep connected and maintain a familial relationship. And, my goodness - I want to be just like her at age 90 - tap dancing my nights away.
The family is the fundamental unit of all societies. Our world needs strong societies - which means we need strong families. And connecting with those family members a bit further down the branch of the family tree strengthens you - and thus, the world. Here are a few ways to keep connected:
1. Utilize Technology. All of us (almost) have access to free video chat apps, like Skype or FaceTime or Google Hangout. Use them to talk face-to-face as you build a relationship across the distance. Set up a weekly or monthly call-time schedule or be spontaneous.
2. Share a Video. If schedules aren't quite meshing for a video chat, then share a few thoughts, sing a song, read a story, show your dog's latest trick - and send via video. I can't wait to see videos of my 3-year old nephew drawing all of over his face or playing an air guitar.
3. Snail Mail. Yes, letters are still in fashion and can keep us connected. Don't you love getting something personal in the mail (that doesn't require you to send money back)? A thoughtful note or picture or even postcard shows concern and shares information that connects us with those we love.
4. Family Photos. Display family pictures and share stories. The younger people of our families can connect through stories that us older members can share - and even relate to their (or our) own life. My Grandpa and his boy scout troop (including my teenage Dad) were hit by lightening at their summer camp. Fortunately, no one died. However the details of that story are chilling and miraculous. And, I think about my grandpa whenever I see lightening.
5. Find a Cause. Is their a passion for a charitable organization or event that you and members of your extended family share? You can participate in your local communities or on a larger scale and share your ideas, thoughts and experiences with each other. Essentially, you are working together for something you love with people you love.
6. Plan a Get-Together. Maybe it's a day trip or a weekend rendezvous (or maybe you're taking on a reunion). Maybe you have a specific itinerary, maybe you have nothing booked beyond breakfast. Just plan to get connected, to enjoy, to learn and to give.
7. Learn. Is your cousin a fabulous cook or your great-uncle a master at wood-working? Ask them to give you a mini online personal tutorial (if distance keeps you away). Not only can you learn something new or fine-tune your own skills, but you express interest in your family member's life by inviting them to share what they enjoy doing.
Opportunities to connect with our extended family are limitless. We can be as unique as the person we're getting to know. These relationships can (and are meant) to have a mighty influence and impact on our lives - strengthening who we and they are as we go.
Shine On. -Kimberly
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