Living Far Away from Extended Family...

Updated on May 04, 2008
R.C. asks from Columbus, IN
33 answers

My husband and I have four great kids and they have over 50 cousins and lots of aunts and uncles. He and I are very close emotionally to our parents and siblings, but we live 2-3 days drive from all extended family.
I want my kids to "get to know" their cousins better. I have a plan to make a little book talking about each cousin, aunt, uncle, and grandparent, but I am looking for any other ideas that you might have for getting close to family that you don't get to see very often,(some -once a year) We love our families and we just want our kids to know what a great extended family they have, but are unsure how to go about doing that when they don't even know some of their names.

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M.P.

answers from Cincinnati on

Have you ever considered a webcam? It would require one on both parties, but you could see and talk to people online.

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M.R.

answers from Lafayette on

We, also, live far away from all of our family. One thing I did for my boys was that I made magnets with all of their cousins, aunts, uncles with their pictures on each one. The boys loved looking at pictures and this really helped them to get to know their family each day.

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K.E.

answers from Lafayette on

My husband is from England, where all of his family lives (except for his brother who lives in Germany), so I can totally relate. We use a program called Skype. It's a program that is free to download onto your computer that allows you to talk to and see your family (if you have a webcam). If your long-distance family all get a webcam, you can see them as well. The greatest thing about it is that it is completely free. So, we can talk for as long as we want without having to worry about the cost. You can use the talking features with dial-up internet, but the webcams require high-speed to work. If you don't have high-speed, you can take advantage of Starbucks or Panera!! Hope this helps you as much as it does us! God bless!

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R.T.

answers from Cincinnati on

R.,
My husband has a very large family also and to keep up with everyone once a year we have our family reunion. Same weekend every year, same place usually. It works great! We have family that comes as far away as lower Kentucky/Virginia. Our house was chosen >25 years ago as the "meeting place" because we have land for campers and tents,so we plan for weeks getting ready for everyone.
Make it simple-
*Ask around and see if all are willing to meet somewhere every year.
*find out what time of year is best for all.
*once decided, let all know when, where (Gatlinburg, Florida, Kings Island,your place) etc.
*send out reminder postcards about a month in advance.
The book sounds like a great idea! Maybe you could start it at your 1st family reunion!!
Good Luck and have fun!!
R.

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M.M.

answers from Indianapolis on

You could ask the aunts and uncles to video tape different things that the cousins do then send you the videos via email or mail. This will help your kids to know what interests their cousins. Plus, it might help them to know what they have in common with their cousins. You could also have everyone sign up for Facebook. It is a pretty secure site. My husband did that when our son was born so the family could just sign up and see the pics. Plus, you can have a blog or chat with them. They could also make a blog.

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S.M.

answers from Dayton on

My family is all over the country, only a couple live in the same state even. Computer connections are great, but without some "face time" those connections are pretty one-dimensional. I highly recommend a big family reunion.

When our kids were little, one of my cousins set up rental of a beach house (sometimes 2 or 3!) in North Carolina. We came from all over the country to spend a week together, and now our kids really KNOW each other. It was especially wonderful to see the older and younger generations enjoying each other. It wasn't that expensive once we divided the cost among all the families, and since we had a kitchen we never had to leave. Cooking and cleanup duties were divided, so everyone was truly on vacation most days.

We chose the beach because that was what we loved; my next door neighbor used to gather with her very extended family in her grandma's tiny town in Nebraska; the "smiths" took over the town for the weekend, staying with neighbors and at the church, gathering in the day for golf outings or tubing down the river. There are camps all over the country that would be perfect for a large family reunion. Maybe everyone wouldn't come the first year, but after hearing from everyone (via those computer connections!) what they missed, you might be surprised the next time.

The main point is for everyone to make the commitment to spend time together. Since you have so many, a long vacation might be difficult, but a day at a park shelter or in Aunt Edna's back yard would be a long-remembered event for your kids. All it takes is someone to start the ball rolling. Next time you go home, see what you can set up! Maybe more people would be interested in a vacation reunion than you think.

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M.D.

answers from Cleveland on

I have family all over as well. One way we all keep in touch is the internet. I'm not sure if you give Christmas or birthday presents, but one thing you could do is give each of your extended families a video camera for the computer. You mount them on the monitor and you can see eachother and talk. They can be pretty cheap - $30-$40 a piece. Then when you see each other 1-2 times a year, you will all be better acquainted and up to date on what is going on in your lives. Good luck!

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C.R.

answers from Toledo on

all I can say is www.youtube.com!! My parents live in Nevada and it has made them feel so close to us. All I do is about every week or so I put on a 1-2 minute video. It only takes a few minutes out of my life each week. I forward the link to everybody and they all love it! So, hopefully, most of their cousins have e-mail addresses so this actually helps you. And, if you want to check out my site, go to youtube and type mzmiller75 in the search field.

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T.M.

answers from Bloomington on

my sister made magnets of all the cousins (laminated pictures with magnets stuck on the back) and has those for the kids to play with. fun idea...

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S.Z.

answers from Cleveland on

I saw a really cute idea a while ago in a magazine. You could have a "chain letter". Where you send a letter about things going on in your life to a second person. Then the second person writes a letter and sends BOTH letter to a third person. This can go up to however many you can fit in an envelope without costing a fortune to send it. Anyway you pretty much make a "circle" of it. When the letters get back to you, take your letter out and replace it with a new letter from you. The rules are nobody can take a letter out thats not theirs and if you dont want everyone on the list to know about it you cant write it, since everyone will read everyone elses letter. It sounded like a really cool idea for friends from high school and/or college to keep in touch kind of at the same time. However you have to put some prethought into it to get the "circle" started, compiling addresses and a list of who sends to who. Depending on how many you can get involved it could take a month or so to have to write a new letter! Now you could say its faster to write an email and mass send it out, which is true. However I think writing something out is much more personal and you can kind of tell the emotion that they are feeling in the handwriting. That cant be done with a standard 12pt font!
Good lcuk!
SZ

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R.K.

answers from Cleveland on

Even seeing her cousins once, or twice a year, we manage to keep them close by having "cousin" sleep-over nights--where they all have a huge slumber party together. The kids love it, the adults hang out together. It works pretty well.

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R.B.

answers from Columbus on

Hi R.,

My husband and I live far away from our relatives also. My sister (the family historian) is in the process of developing our family tree. Once done, our plan is to frame it and place it in a prominent place in our home. Plus this will be something that can be handed down for years.

Good luck to you and your family!
R.
www.workpaysathome.com

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M.T.

answers from South Bend on

You are on the internet now, how many of your family have access? I'm just beginning as a grandma learning to do things with my computer, and I have an excellent collection of pictures from my son and daughter of my grandkids. When I get a ear piece so I can talk and listen in real time (my son has promised to explain all this to me) I can see and talk to them as well. Some sort of arrangement can be made for your family as well (they even do it in the fullly papers). Good luck and of course you have to keep an eye on exactly who the kids talk to, unfortunately. Good luck.

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S.L.

answers from Cincinnati on

Hi R., how about the computer cam, my sister and I do it all the time and we stay connected that way, Yes, it can be pricey but,it is cheaper than a 2-3 day trip..

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C.B.

answers from Cleveland on

Our family is all in MA, so I know how difficult it can be. Since our son was born, we've worked very hard to make sure they get to see him at least once a year. We take a summer vacation to go up and see them (mostly because my Mother-in-law is getting older and is not well and we want our son to know her). Also, I try to keep e-mails with pictures and updates going. For those who don't e-mail, I've sent pictures and notes about how he is doing. I also started a genealogy page where we can work on his family tree. There are places to write about each family member, add pictures, etc. The one I use is free - http://www.myheritage.com/

Best of luck!

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P.R.

answers from Indianapolis on

Teaching your children at a young age to write letters and spend some time on the telephone with the extended family is important. I think it is important to have recent photos of family as well.

My brother and his family were in the military until 2002 and spent most of their time in places like Virginia, Texas, Kansas, Germany, and Italy. I saw very little of my neice and nephew when they were young and my children saw very little of their uncle. We spoke to him and his family at least once a week by phone, but unless you have unlimited long distance that can be impossible. We depended on letters and pictures a lot as well.

P. R

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S.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

My suggestion would be for each of your children to be a pen pal with a cousin of about the same age.(or more than one)
Your other ideas are good and maybou could get together with various ones at locations midway between your residences.
Your desire to nurture the family relationships are commendable and will require a lot of focus.
Videos are a good way too.
Also sharing interesting things about where you live,
Hope it works.

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D.K.

answers from Indianapolis on

Make & share family photo albums. They can be actual photos in a book but ALSO.....send albums via internet. Make sure to acknowledge and send birthday, anniversary cards, etc.

Go ahead and invite them or let them know about birthday parties, etc. and then send them photos over the internet. You obviously don't expect them to come, but you still want them to feel like a part of the family, yet not obligated. Just informing them of what's going on in the family.

Can you do web cams every month, twice a month? This can be a time for EVERYONE and something to look forward to. Let the kids make cards, have them draw pictures, etc and send. Send them photos of graduations, baseball games, etc. The internet has made those kinds of issues.......MUCH easier!!!

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K.W.

answers from Indianapolis on

We have been in this situation at various times throughout our kids lives. We have done a swap sometimes. My kids might go stay with grandparents or my sister for several days at a time instead of just one night. Sometimes we'd meet in between an swap kids, etc. Or you might find a good park with a campground where everyone can come and go for about a week or so in order to get to know each other better.

I do know that the bigger the families get, you have understand that the kids won't be probably as close to everyone as you and your husband might be. However, we found that maybe two or three of them will click and they'll be anxious to see them whenever. I think it's great, though, that you are working towards keeping the family as close as possible. We have always believed family is important and sometimes you have to just make the time to get together.

Hope this helps!

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G.L.

answers from Cleveland on

We have the same situation, all our family lives out of town. I have gotten my kids to know who they are by planning trips to see various family members for various reasons (weddings, funerals, birthdays, etc.) and taking lots of pictures while we are with everyone. I try to chronicle the event, which is sort of unfair to me because I don't get to really talk to anyone. But I am able to send the relatives pictures of them doing things with my kids, and I make a photo album for my family that we review frequently, and remember the people and the great time we had. The funny thing, now that they have gotten older, they see their cousins differently, and enjoy them more. They may not have liked some cousins before, but now my kids have matured and so have the cousins! But they have a solid base for a relationship, be it infrequently, because they have relived those times together through the photo albums we have created. It takes a lot of effort on our part because we are the ones that live 7 or more hours away, but it's worth it!!!

G. L.

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T.F.

answers from Fort Wayne on

We have the same situation. All of our extended family lives in California. What we have done is when we do visit we take pictures of the kids with individual family members or groups of them, print them out and bought frames you put on the refridgerator. That helped my now 3 year old not be afraid of family members when we did see them because they looked familiar and there were pictures of them with her. We are doing the same for my 20 month old. It's great. We also have photo albums for them to look through made in book form...Lauren, Lauren who do you see...I see Uncle Ron looking at me and then there is a picture of the 2 of them together. Just an idea.

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M.W.

answers from Indianapolis on

Hi Roby,

I am in the same situation. My husband has some family near by - his dad and step mom are very close to my kids, that's grandma and grandpa and she absolutely adores grandma.

One thing I highly recommend that I do with my mom - have a webcam. I turn it on so she can see my kids and they can see her, just seeing her face and seeing her smile and wave helps them to remember her.... I put her on speaker phone and

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K.V.

answers from Columbus on

We lived in Oregon for 5 years when my oldest two children were born. Both of our families were in Ohio and Indiana. It was hard when the girls got old enough to know they were missing being with their grandparents.

We weren't able to get home for Christmas when my oldest was about 2. I had my mom read books (she's great at it) to my daughter on video. She sent the tape along with the board books and a teddy bear she had in the video. She watched it non-stop! My younger daughter enjoyed it when she got to be the same age. My son, who has always been within a few hours of grandparents, still enjoys watching it.

We also did some trips with grandparents where we rented a condo near the middle.

It's hard but worth it to make the cousins, etc, seem real to them. It makes it easier when they get together. My kids love spending time with their cousins even though they don't see them all that often now.

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B.V.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi - any chances of moving back to the are of your family? WE did that and it has been great - same scenario but we were only 2.5 horus away...

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M.A.

answers from Cincinnati on

Hi R..

I know EXACTLY what it's like to be away from family. All of my family live 13 or more hours away from us as well. Something that has helped our daughter get to know far away family is the web cam. There's a program called Skype where we can call family members online and she can see as well as hear them. The program is free online, so you just pay for your web cam and your internet. Now, whenever I get the laptop out, she yells out family members names. It's really helped her. She has even started identifying their faces in pictures on our walls. I hope this helps. Good luck!

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L.Y.

answers from Cleveland on

In this month's family fun magazine they have a wonderful idea you should try. They took full length pictures of all of their family members (ones with lots of character), backed them with the pre-stick magnetic sheets and then cut them out so it was only the person and no background. They then put these up on the fridge so the children could see them daily and even play with them, grouping them in their families or making up stories. For her older daughter she had printed out each of their names and backed them with the magnets as well so she could match and label each of her family members.

It sounds fairly easy and would be out and accessible all of the time!

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T.M.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi R.,
First, I have to ask you where you live? We live in the Avon, Ohio area and I too don't have my family here. They live in Indiana. It's only a 6.5 hour drive but still, it's very hard for me. :(
If we live close maybe, we could meet and lean on each other for support.
I'm a stay at home mom of two and my husband seems to be working a-lot latley and bringing his work home too.

Maybe, you could look into getting the web camera's for your computer. That way you can talk to your parents over the computer and your kids can also see them and stay in contact with them.
I think you can also get several of them and somehow make it so you can all talk to each other or you will atleast be able to talk to your parent's and another family member in another household.
We got one for my sister and I for Christmas and haven't hooked ours up yet...but I can't wait to try it. My daughter loves to play with her cousins when we go for a visit and talk to them on our cell phone. This will thrill her being able to see them on our computer and talk to them.

I'm very lucky that my in-laws only live 45 minutes away. So, I do have some support around me and my mother-in-law is great and she tells me she loves me and would do anything for me, but it's not the same as having my own mother here.
Plus, my mother has Muscular Dystrophy and I know she eventually won't be able to travel or get around on her own and I want to spend as much time with her as possible.

Anyway, if we are in the same area, please contact me and maybe we can meet? [email protected]____.com Just put Mamosource mother in the Subject line so I know it's not junk mail.
If, we're not close. Feel free to still e-mail me if you ever need to talk. I know how hard it is without family close by.

Good luck,
T.

PS - I think through Apple etc... you can make some really nice books. Some friends of mine have done it and they send in the pictures and what they want the book to say on h
,.;;;??
each page and in a couple of weeks they have a nice hard covered, or soft covered book sent to them. They do a nice job.

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J.S.

answers from Cleveland on

R.,

I know exactly what you are going through :) When my daughters were 3 and 18 months we moved 400 miles away from our family center in Maryland. Even though it is only a day's driv to bring us home, with gas prices and our increasingly busy schedule we don't get to see everyone very frequently. I will tell you a couple of things that we have done that helps a lot not only with dealing with the distance but they are fun activities for the kids to do. First, we actually write or send pictures or art work that my daughters, now 5 1/2 and 4, have made about every other week. For our computer savy family members we have a members only myspace log that we update at least every other day and we receive responses from everyone.

We also started a rather large project shortly after we moved of contructing our family tree but in an unusual way...we are actually drawing a picture (or at least we plan to once it is all down on paper). Our family is also VERY large and still growing as my generation continues to expand by marriage and children. About once a month we get some new information to add to our family tree and we have sucessfully mapped the four current generations (my grandparent's through my children's generations) as well as the two previous. We even found out that some of my grandmother's cousins were born about a half hour away from where we live now! I know it sounds like a daunting project and I was worried at first that my girls were too young, but they love getting the mail and the family has helped by writing big so that they can practice reading and/or saying their letters as well as being thrilled to the toes by actually getting mail themselves :)

Two years ago this project inspired my mother to start a family reunion each summer so that not only can we get together with everyone, but we have brought our "tree" with us for all to see. It has been a big hit and we get several updates a year from family members as they find information about their family that we don't have yet! We also have used this tree to create a special birthday calendar which my girls use to make birthday cards for everyone and a map in which we have marked where people were born and lived (how we found our cousins here in Ohio).

I wish you luck and hope that you find some good ideas to help keep you close.

J.

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S.H.

answers from South Bend on

My husbands family lives far away from us too. One thing we do is keep websites for our kids. If you go to www.totsites.com you can make a webpage for your kids. They are FREE and they are GREAT! You can post pics, journal, put little facts about your kids, track their growth, do little surveys, and there is even a spot where you can e-mail people to have them sign up to get alerts whenever you put something new on the page! It is great!

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J.L.

answers from Cleveland on

Our families live far as well, although not as far as yours, and when I was pregnant, we bought all the grandparents and one of my brothers web cams. They can be costly, ours werw about $75 each (and research which ones are good). plus you need someone who is a little tech savvy at both ends, but we have had great success and it has been fun. My son is only 14 months, so we are not sure what he understands, but the grandparents have loved it and we do it about once a week. It has really let them see him grow. We actually have one in our laptop and put it on our coffee table so our son can crawl around and play and they can watch him. We also gave my grandfather a tour of our house because at 89 he can't make the trip.

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M.F.

answers from Dayton on

We too live away from our family. 1) cell phones are great. we all have phones on the same network so it's free to call. I let my oldest call his grandparents and great-grandparents every day. 2) web cams - we have recently purchased one and we use it to talk to free with my brother (he lives in NYC) as well as our family members with computers. 3) Picture books with short stories 4) we also make bi-monthly trips to see our families.

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K.I.

answers from Indianapolis on

Hi R.!
My family is a 10 hour drive away and I feel the same way. I like to let them talk on the phone with their cousins and on holidays we get out the webcams. It's not the same as being there but it sure does help!

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D.B.

answers from Cincinnati on

We had a faimily reuinion once a year. How about starting pen pals. The book is a good idea but the cousins I rememebr the most are the ones we had adventures with. Maybe a different state park half way between!!!

Good luck!

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