My mom likes to text me. I don’t know if you have the same relationship with your mother, but my mother has found that texting is the easiest and quickest way to get my attention. And while she loves to ask me random questions during my week, she does a very good job of keeping me informed about my extended family: you know, those aunts, uncles, cousins… the ones you rarely see, but you know are somehow related to you (as evidenced by that large tree map someone put together years ago).
Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who live close to your extended family, but for many modern families loved ones live thousands of miles away. It’s often already hard to build good relationships with the people we live with, but even more difficult with family whom we rarely see. How are we supposed to be “in relationship” with people we barely know and who live so far away?
See Each Other Often
During my childhood, my immediate family made a commitment to see my extended family at least once a year. We would travel from San Diego to Pittsburgh so often that now both cities feel like home. These frequent visits helped me see my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents as important people in my life, even if it was for a week at a time. They got to know me too, which helped them feel a part of my life.
Travel can be difficult and expensive, but let your parents know how important it is for you to see your extended family. Hey, even Mary traveled to see her cousin Elizabeth. If it’s important for a 13-year old pregnant girl to travel to see her family, it’s probably important for us too.
Communication is Key
My grandmother is never going to get a computer (she thinks they are fads), but she does love a phone call. It’s really easy to get into the mode of thinking that it’s only important to communicate with the people who are in our immediate circle of friends. More meaningful and long-term communication can be really difficult. Trust me: I love Twitter and Facebook, but a phone call or handwritten letter can put a smile on a family member’s face more than any text message.
You can enlist your parents to help you with this one, too. When it’s someone’s birthday, make sure you sign the card going to that person. Maybe even keep a record of all your family members’ birthdays and send them something yourself on their birthdays.
Be a Witness
Every time I see my extended family I usually have to retell my current life story to each and every family member. People want to know what’s going in your life and it can be hard to share all the details. In that moment is an opportunity to be a witness to your family. If you’re involved with your youth group, let them know. Share how God is working in your life. You give glory to God when you share with those that love you what it means to be loved by the Father.
Extended families are different for everyone. Some of you have one or two cousins. Others have 20. No matter how big or small you consider your family, it’s important to keep in touch with them. Make them a priority and you will be blessed by them throughout your life.