Fostering a Strong Support Network When You’re Geographically Distant

Fostering a Strong Support Network When You’re Geographically Distant

When life takes you physically far away from your family and friends, it can be challenging to maintain closeness. Geographical barriers may limit face-to-face interactions, but there are still ways to stay connected while also growing your local support network.

Here are a few ideas for keeping long-distance loved ones engaged in the day-to-day of your life.

  • Virtual get-togethers – Video chats can be a lot of fun, but they can also go off the rails quickly if it’s a large group or there are kids involved. To make video chat with multiple generations more engaging, play a game or do an activity together virtually.
  • Scheduled adults-only check-ins – Getting kids involved with maintaining long-distance connections is great. But don’t forget to schedule some adults-only time so you can give your full attention to adult matters and topics. Make it more likely that you will stick to your plan by picking a time and date each month that works for everyone and blocking it your calendar. Then grab your favorite beverage or snack and settle in for a time of meaningful conversation to catch up.
  • Care packages and snail mail – Now more than ever, getting a letter in the mail or package on your doorstep is a fun surprise. So make the extra effort to drop something in the mail – a colored picture from a child, a simple card or letter, or a fun souvenir from where you live – for special occasions and just because.
  • Shared family calendar – Do you find it hard to keep up with what’s  happening in your long-distance family’s daily life? Try setting up a shared calendar with important dates, milestones and events so everyone can still feel a part of what’s happening even if they can’t be there in person. These little reminders will also help spur conversation when you check in on phone or video chats. A long-distance grandparent can ask a grandchild about that important test or musical recital coming up and send them a quick text to wish them luck.

As wonderful as technology and receiving care packages in the mail are, sometimes you just can’t replace that in-person support from someone nearby. Many times, something comes up unexpectedly such as sick kids, a broken-down car or just needing a shoulder to cry on. Having someone local to call on short notice in your time of need is essential. So how do we build these family-like connections in a new area?

  • Join parenting groups/play groups – If you are a parent of young children, look for local parenting support groups or play groups you and your child can attend together. If your child attends school, you can connect with other parents by volunteering, participating in the PTA or meeting parents during pick-up and drop-off time. Although it can feel challenging at times, striking up conversation with another parent may lead to a deep friendship down the road as you connect over your shared experiences while your children grow.
  • Explore common interests – Do you have a hobby or sport you enjoy? Is there a local faith community that aligns with your beliefs? Connecting to others through shared interests such as a book club, a gym class or a place of worship can be a great option for adding to your local support network as friendships grow.
  • Get outside your comfort zone – If you feeling stuck with meeting new people in your area, try out a new extracurricular activity, take a lesson in something you have been wanting to learn or volunteer in your community. You never know who you may connect with that will be a great support to you and your family in the future.
  • Make an effort to meet your neighbors – Start with where you live. Is there another parent who lives far from their family and has children who attend your kid’s school? Be each other’s back-up school emergency contact. Do you have an older neighbor missing their long-distance grandchildren? Maybe they’d love to come visit and hold your baby while you get some laundry folded, or you can help them with yard work while they play a board game with your kids. If you are missing your long-distance support network, there is a good chance that someone in your neighborhood is also missing theirs!

Whether it is school, work or deployment that takes us far from family and friends, we can feel lost without our support network. Thankfully with the help of technology and some effort, we can maintain strong connections with those far away while forging bonds with new people locally. And before you know it, your support network will be even stronger.

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