There are many family situations today where you can find three,
four or even five generations living under one roof. While the
circumstances that result in multi-generational living vary from
financial to health-related to simple family closeness, families who
choose to live together face initial periods of adjustment. Many of
these family members ultimately find their relationships
strengthened by their mutual experiences and their patience in
dealing with many issues at once. These issues may include serving
as the main caregiver for an older relative, grandparents raising
grandchildren and adult children having to rely on their parents for
financial support due to job loss or disability. Others choose to
live together by choice, as a way to keep the close-knit ties
intact, and as a way to help each other when needed by being in the
Those who maintain such a close relationship recognize the benefits
of continued contact with the members of their extended families.
There are, however, many families that cannot see each other nearly
this often. Whether it is due to the large geographic distances
between them, or due to their hectic daily schedules, losing contact
with your family is a loss that can never be recovered. With a
little time and a little planning, however, it is possible to
maintain these links. Here are several ways to help maintain closer
ties between extended family members.
Hold a Reunion
Many families hold regular or irregular reunions, be it once a year,
once every other year, or a few times during each year. These
get-togethers, which can be held at a family members’ home, a
central point that all can reach, or at a travel destination such as
a cruise trip or at Disney World, are a unique opportunity to visit
with closely related and more distantly related members of the
extended family. Many families have reunions with the various parts
of their family every year. Everyone has a great time “catching up”
with each other. Everyone usually has fun, and they come away with
a greater sense of how lucky they are to be part of such a special
group. Pictures or video-camera movies are taken at these events,
which preserve the memories for years to come.
This may seem like something that you might NOT wish to do, but it
can be a lot of fun, if you all work together and understand from
the beginning that there may be a few rough moments along with the
great ones. By vacationing together, you have a great opportunity
to be even closer to everyone in the extended family. Although you
can plan many group activities, make sure to spend some quality time
alone, or with your own nuclear family.
Interview or Videotape a Conversation With an Older Relative
You will be fascinated with the stories that you uncover and can
pass on to subsequent generations if you take the time to listen.
Not only do you learn more about the person and what they endured in
their lifetime, but you also get a firsthand account of an earlier
time from someone who was there. You can “interview” your relative
and learn a great deal about people who might be only a name on the
family tree, but had a real connection to your relative in their
daily life. You can also videotape your relative and ask a number
of questions about their childhood, thereby also learning more about
your parents and grandparents. These tapes and interviews are true
treasures and future members of the family will feel the same way.
Write to Each Other
This is a practice that can be accomplished by the traditional
handwritten note or through e-mail. Through regular writings (and
the latest photos), the extended family is able to keep abreast of
each other’s daily lives. Videotapes are also very useful to keep
in regular correspondence with members of the family that you don’t
see very often, particularly if you don’t like to write! Remember,
too, that communication is a two-way street. You won’t find out
about others unless you make an effort to tell them about you!
Make a Book of Memories
This is a wonderful present for older people to give to children.
These books contain stories of their lives and are another way of
passing their life stories on to subsequent generations. Children
enjoy reading these books and can feel “connected” to their
relatives who live far away or who have died. You can also make a
cookbook of favorite recipes and give a copy to everyone in our
family. A story of the origin of each recipe would make the book
truly special to the extended family. You can expand the family
memory idea by putting together a yearly photo calendar, with
appropriate photos for each month of the year. List family birthdays
and anniversaries for each month, as a reminder to everyone. The
family can get involved by sending their favorite photos from the
past year, and this could serve as a “sure” holiday gift every year.
Extended families should be considered a
treasure in that, even though we are related, we have diverse
interests and talents that we can share with each other. In doing
so, we can strengthen the bonds that we share and pass on to our
children the enthusiasm that we have in sharing with each other.
This way, they too will realize just how lucky they are to have such
a varied and special group of people to be related to.
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