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How To Deal With a Long-Distance Family

As my dad twirled me around the vinyl dance floor, my eyes teared up with the realization that this moment may never happen again.

Across from us, my mom and her husband laughed, my cousin held her sleeping daughter, my grandparents sipped on a rare glass of wine, and my brother dipped his new wife like a young Patrick Swayze.

For once, we were all together, celebrating life and love. A rarity in a long-distance family like mine.

We are scattered across the United States, Canada, and at one point, Saudi Arabia. I’ve lived away from my extended family since I was 10, and now from my nuclear family since I was 17. Thanks to a more globalized world, there are more and more families like mine. Being a part of a long-distance family is tough, and at some point, you’ll feel like you either have to drop everything to return home or accept drifting further away.

You don’t have to let it get that far, however, and here are some tips that can help.

long-distance family

Compare the logistical problems vs. the relationship problems.
Often people in long-distance relationships, whether with a significant other or with family members, confuse “logistical problems” vs. “relationship problems.” In a way, this is a chicken-and-the-egg issue. Existing relationship problems within a family can be exacerbated with the logistical problems that come with long-distance. However identifying those issues proactively and addressing them is imperative to maintaining a connected family.

long-distance family

Instead of flying to Cabo, go home for the holidays.
This one is tough, especially for “wanderlust” types like me. I recently bought a very expensive flight to the United States for the winter holidays and quickly found myself calculating all of the other exciting places I could’ve gone with that money. However, we only get a finite amount of free time and if maintaining family relationships is important to you, you must work to spend time with them. Even if that means missing out on your friend’s bachelorette trip to Vegas.

long-distance family

Schedule a weekly time to talk to your family. 
Over the years, this has organically happened in my family. I know that every Sunday in the afternoon (after church, of course) I’ll receive a phone call from my grandmother. Whether we speak for just five minutes or for one hour, it’s a time we’ve set aside to connect. No matter how busy your life becomes, you have to make time for those brief opportunities.

long-distance family

Don’t waste time on family drama.
Avoid the drama at all costs when speaking with your family. Don’t let them drag you into the conflicts occurring back home for two main reasons; 1) you simply can’t do anything about it and 2) life is too short.

long-distance family

Share your life.
Much of the strain that accompanies long-distance relationships comes from family members feeling forgotten or “left-out.” I’ve been scolded one-too-many times for forgetting to tell my dad when I went on a trip. Even though I’m an adult and he lives thousands of miles away, he still wants to be a part of my life. So be open with your family, tell them what’s going on in your life and involve them in your decision-making whenever possible. Although it may feel onerous, you should actively work to incorporate them into your daily life. If not, you risk isolating yourself and them.


Victoria Heath

Victoria is a historian and political scientist, as well as a writer and photographer. As a third-culture-kid who grew up in Saudi Arabia, she hopes to use her background and perspective to educate people about the world, and themselves. You can find her wandering around most mornings drinking a mocha, listening to BBC-radio and talking to strangers