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Connecting Across the Miles: Long Distance Family Relationships

By Shannon Cromwell, Extension Associate ProfessorCouple communicating during different time zones

Family members often experience geographical separation that can occur over a few days, months, or even years. One of the realities of our mobile society is that entire families from parents, children, siblings, and even spouses are often faced with situations in which they are required to live apart from one another (Barakji et al., 2019). A broad range of reasons exist for geographical separation including educational attainment, career changes and advancement, job-related travel, military deployment, and missionary work.  Separation brings about changes in family roles, responsibilities, and routines, which can create obstacles to building strong, resilient families (Segin & Flora, 2019).  Living apart may cause stress, but families can strengthen relationships and stay connected by employing a few strategies.

1. Establish Communication Routines.

Strong relationships are built on trust and security and people thrive when they have routines and expectations on which they can depend.

2. Take Advantage of Available Technology.

Family members can remain connected through calling, emailing, texting, video chatting, blogging, etc.

3. Work on Maintaining Relationship Satisfaction.

Social relationships have a tremendous influence on personal health and well-being. Despite the distance, it is important to listen, pay attention, and acknowledge the feelings of other family members to ensure that each member feels nurtured and validated (Mickus & Luz, 2002).  

4. Be Creative in Efforts to Remain Connected.

Family members can be “together” even if they are miles apart.  Read the same book or watch the same movie, and then spend time discussing it. Sending care packages on important dates will make family members feel extra special.

Families have shown remarkable resiliency in adjusting to economic and social opportunities and challenges. One of the realities of our mobile society is that families are often placed in situations in which they must live apart from one another. Living apart can create stress and disconnections among family members, but there are strategies that can strengthen bonds. Families can connect across the miles by maintaining regular, meaningful communication, making a commitment to each other, and incorporating creative strategies.


  • Barakji, F., Maguire, K. C., Reiss, H., Gaule, J., Smith, N., Pelliccio, L., Sellnow-Richmond, S., Jeon, J., & Oshagan, H. (2019). Cultural and transnational influences on the use of information communication technologies in adult long-distance family relationships: An extension of media multiplexity theory. Journal of Family Communication, 19(1), 30-46.
  • Mickus, M. A., & Luz, C. C. (2002). Televists: Sustaining long distance family relationships among institutionalized elders through technology. Aging & Mental Health, 6(4), 387-396.
  • Segrin, C., & Flora, J. (2019). Family Communication (3rd ed.) Routledge.