By Bev and Phil Haas
With our busy schedules we seem to be living together but separately. We’re not looking to smother one another, but how can we grow closer—in our extended family as well as our immediate family?
We live in Ohio, and even though it’s just the two of us at home now, we can easily fall into the routine of living together separately. Add other family members into the mix, and it can really get complicated.
Our daughter and her family live in Indiana; our son and his family live in California. We also have grandparents, brothers, and sisters living in Kentucky. It takes tremendous effort to have time together. But we know that staying in touch is essential to keeping our family ties strong. Love over time and distance is how we keep our family close.
“We just drifted apart.” Who hasn’t heard that common complaint? Staying close isn’t automatic. All of us have a tendency to drift away from those we are close to because we often take their presence for granted. In his insightful book The Principle of the Path (Thomas Nelson, 2011), Andy Stanley points out, “We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.” If you want to stay close to family, you must make family a priority.
There is a Scripture that says, “Come close to God and God will come close to you” (James 4:8, New Living Translation). Our first suggestion to stay close is that you take the initiative to draw close to your family. Coming close sounds a lot like spending time together. That will be more of a challenge with family members who are far away. Below are some suggestions that help us stay close with family members who are nearby and far away.
Social media can make it easier to connect. With the push of a button, you can chat and send a quick text to check in with one another day or night. Bev uses Facebook to share what’s happening in our lives and learn what’s happening in the lives of our family. Our son in California recently posted pictures and videos of Connor, our grandson, celebrating his first birthday, and we saw Caden’s first day of school and celebrated his first test results.
FaceTime. Our family has “gone Apple” to make it easier to be with family in person, even when we’re not. The other day Bev and I were in a swing overlooking the River while “FaceTiming” with our family in California. If you can’t attend your son’s game or activity, watch a video or connect through FaceTime after the game.
Put Away Distractions. As wonderful as electronics can be, leave them off for a spell and actually speak with one another. This past summer, Bev “fasted” for a period of time from her iPad and phone (it was hard) to give Phil her full attention. Have an uninterrupted meal together and look one another in the eye.
Personal time. Spend some individual time with each other. Make sure that includes time with each child as well as your spouse. One of our church leaders, Brian Heckber, chronicles his time with his daughter, Emma, through pictures. Together they picked different places to visit in Cincinnati and have been going on dates to those places. Personal time can be a phone conversation with a far away family member. For us, that means an occasional plane trip to California.
Vacation together. We realize this idea takes more time and money. Recently we started the tradition of inviting our kids and grandkids to the beach with us for a week. The beach might not be the right choice for your family. A camping trip might be more to their liking. The point is to get lots of unplugged time together.
Praying for family. Prayer is another way we stay close to family. Praying for one another makes us aware of each other’s needs and creates a deeper bond as God answers our prayers.
Bev is very close with her sister and brother. Those relationships are nurtured because they routinely talk and spend time together. How you choose to stay close doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you make the effort to set aside time regularly to connect with the loved ones who make up your family, both near and far.
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org. We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have two grandsons.