Once we’ve grown up, moved away to begin careers and perhaps even started families of our own, staying in touch with family members can take considerable effort. Old disagreements that may have boiled over into arguments (or even worse) can keep us apart for longer than either party ever intended. Navigating the new normal of long-established relationships now altered by time and distance—both literally and figuratively—can be challenging, but it can also hold potential for great rewards. Your family is unique and important. Family members can enrich your life in immeasurable ways that you cannot even begin to predict, particularly if you’ve been estranged.
Our parents aren’t getting any younger, and we can’t rely on them to take the lead anymore. In many cases, they’re no longer planning annual family reunions for multiple generations. Dear old Aunt Agnes has long since retired from conducting her delectable annual Thanksgiving event. Even among relatively close, immediate and extended families, relationship maintenance is easily neglected amid our busy, over-scheduled lives. If you’ve lost touch with cousins, aunts, uncles, or even brothers, sisters and parents, it’s never too late to make an effort to reconnect.
It’s more than likely that initiating contact could be entirely up to you. The only question is how best to make the first move, now that we have so many options. Social media. An email. A text message. A phone call. A letter, mailed with an actual stamp. Showing up on a front porch, uninvited but with a smile. Viable possibilities, all. Choosing the right option for reaching out could depend on how the relationship left off before.
Take Your Time
If you haven’t connected in years, you have time to think about what you want to say before reaching out. You probably don’t owe anyone an explanation, but you might want to indicate what you’ve been up to—and show some interest in your family members’ lives, too.
When you finally get together, don’t ask why you haven’t heard from your family member. The fact that they’ve responded is enough to show you that they care, and let’s face it, you’ve not exactly been the best at keeping in touch yourself. Reminisce about happy memories you share.
Plan for the Future
Once you’ve reestablished even a small connection with your long-lost family member, the awkwardness will begin to melt away, and you’ll soon be back on the road to the closeness you once shared, but don’t force it. These things can take time. Once you feel the timing is right, make a pact to stay in touch, together. It takes effort from both sides to make a relationship last.
Remember, everybody’s different. There are no hard and fast rules for reconnecting with family, but if you put yourself out there with genuine feeling, chances are someone in your family will reciprocate. A connection could be renewed, and the next time you meet, all you’ll need to do is find a comfortable place where you can relax and pick up where you left off.