With two kids off at college in opposite parts of the world and a third child still at home, long-distance communication has become an apropos issue in our family. It’s interesting to see how the kids are staying in touch with each other and how it differs from how I communicate with them. They are fairly close-knit and my youngest had some serious angst about her brother and sister both leaving for college this fall, dreading being ‘an only’ child. They swore they would keep in close contact, and with today’s technology, it really isn’t that hard to do. Actually connecting and communicating however is a different story altogether.
I rely heavily on texting and on occasional FaceTime sessions for communicating with my children and that works pretty well in general, at least in terms of getting basic messaging across. Whether or not it promotes deeper communication, well, I think it varies depending on person and circumstance.
My son seems to look forward to our FaceTime sessions as they give him an opportunity to see familiar surroundings on his screen, if he’s lucky he’ll even catch a glimpse of the dog as he flashes by in the background. My son in turn has given me a ‘tour’ of his dorm room and a view out his window, which gives me an idea of his immediate environment. It’s nice to have that visual context. Texting is a good option for quick check-ins to see how the day is going, or to take care of practical matters. It’s a big bonus that these days, unlike when he was living at home, he actually responds!
Snapchatting seems to be the prefered method of communication between my son and his little sister at home. The way they do it is interesting because it’s like they’re creating a running narrative of the day, sending little mini stories to each other, complete with pictures and all. I’ll be driving my daughter to school in the morning and all of a sudden she is taking a picture of us, sending it his way with a comment about one thing or another. He sends a comment or a picture back and just like that they have shared what’s going on at the moment. It may be fleeting but it does keep them feeling connected.
My oldest daughter isn’t very interested in Snapchat or any of the other communication apps for that matter. She prefers actually talking and will call on a regular basis. I think it’s great, but her reluctance to use these tools means that she doesn’t stay in touch with her siblings as much. The three of them haven’t found their common way of communicating just yet.
Even though we have all this fabulous technology available, staying in touch with friends and family after a move abroad can still be challenging. Part of the reason is that people have different expectations of what the communication should look like. Staying in touch, it turns out, takes commitment and work. It will never really work if one of the parties is doing the brunt of the work – is always the one calling or texting, for example.
Additionally, when moving abroad, you have to remember that your frame of reference starts to shift. Living in, and adapting to, a new culture leaves a mark on how you relate to the world and it can become a struggle to explain your ‘new world’ to people back home. They in turn may feel like you are not really interested in what’s going on at home. Like with all communication, open and honest conversations are probably the best way to avoid ending up in lopsided and frustrating long-distance relationships.
With modern technology there are so many options for keeping in touch – it really should be a breeze to stay connected to our near and dear, regardless of where in the world we are located. The trick is to combine the technology with our own ‘human touch’ in order to actually make a connection, and not just send streams of words and images back and forth. How to do that is for each one of us to figure out – preferably together with those with whom we wish to stay close.
By: Felicia Shermis