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Developing family relationships over distance

3-minute read

It can be hard for your children and other family members to develop close relationships when they live apart. Whether your family is in another town or another country, there is plenty you can do to help them stay involved.

Families have an emotional bond. We often share the same values and goals. Children benefit when they know their family members love each other and look after each other. This will help them develop their own strong relationships in later life. It is important that they see healthy family relationships being maintained — even when this is from a distance.

Ways to include family members over distance

It is important for your relatives to tell your child they are important to them and that they love them, even if they don’t see them often. They should keep up to date with your child’s life, their interests, their friendships, and their likes and dislikes. Technology can make it easy to stay in touch. It may allow your relatives to still communicate with you regularly and be involved in your family life. If so, they can build strong, positive relationships with your children.

These tips can help you stay in touch:

  • Arrange to call or video call at regular times — short but frequent contact helps family members to feel involved.
  • Have your relative read your child a bedtime story over a webcam.
  • Send text messages or emails to keep in touch.
  • Share links and photos. You can set up a private social media page for your family.
  • Send letters or cards by post — children love getting mail.
  • Remind your relatives of important dates in your child’s life.

How to maintain relationships

As well as keeping in touch, there are ways to build and maintain relationships. It’s important to make time for family members, even if they do not live close to you.

Some ways to build strong relationships over distance include the following:

  • Share family rituals and milestones, like birthdays, religious holidays and other significant events.
  • Share experiences, both good and bad — show your relatives that you value their advice.
  • Have family discussions to work through difficulties.
  • Treat your family members with respect — set an example for your children so they understand how family members expect to be treated.
  • If your extended family is from another culture, help your children to understand how this is different and what is expected of them.
  • Keep cultural traditions alive and involve your relatives in new family rituals that you develop.

Managing conflict

Sometimes families who live apart might have differences of opinion. There can be conflict due to differences in the health system, different cultural practices and different views about parenting.

Conflict is normal and healthy for all families. Families grow stronger when they work together to find ways of overcoming conflict. It is important for children to see how you manage and overcome differences of opinion so they will become confident in managing conflict themselves.

Read more about managing cultural differences over raising children here.

Where to go for more information

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 for support and advice. You can use the Translating and Interpreting Service to call.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2019


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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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