Three Ideas for Connecting with Family Members

Giving from the Heart series

You can never have too many ways to connect with family members!  Given the likelihood of physical distance between family members these days and the tendency to feel like “connecting” means texting, it’s important to find more meaningful ways to connect.  As the last Giving from the Heart post in this #familyhistoryfriday series, today we’ll look at three creative, meaningful ways to connect with family members.  These are sweet things you could give from the heart for a birthday, holiday, or just because.

Family Tree Canvas

Knowing family stories is the biggest predictor of a child’s well-being!  It has been shown to increase self-esteem, make kids more resilient, and even lower depression and anxiety.  Family stories, then, are an ideal way to create connections.  (You can find tips on creating family stories here.)  Seeing a family tree each day is a great reminder of those family stories.  It’s a reminder to every family member that they all belong –to the family and to each other.

I particularly love this idea for a family tree canvas because I think it makes a huge difference to see faces on a family tree and not just names.  It’s obviously perfect for a child, but if you leave out the main branch (the baby face there at the bottom), this could be made as a general family tree for all the siblings.  In the same way, it could be an extended family tree starting with grandparents, a lovely gift from the heart for cousins.  (This is template 105954 here, or you can see the one I have hanging on my wall without pictures here.)

When our hearts are turned to our ancestors, something changes inside us.  We feel part of something greater than ourselves.  Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors.”  -Russell M. Nelson

Family Calendars

One way I love making family connections every single year is with a family calendar.  My sister-in-law’s family had always done a very simple one that used pictures of each family member during their birthday month.  I have taken that approach with our family’s calendar.  I love that method because in the past 8 years, our little family has lost our mom/grandma and two sons/cousins.  That means we, obviously, don’t have recent pictures of any of them.  Because we focus on each person instead of recent photos, we always have pictures of every single family member each year.  It’s been fun for me to go back and find pictures of my mom as a young mom or as a college student to use for the family calendar.  She’s always there with us. 

As you might guess, I always use Heritage Makers for my family calendars because of the quality and the flexibility (no restrictions on how many pictures, how much text, etc.).  New calendar templates always come out this time of year, too.  Or it’s easy to just create my own design with thousands of pieces of free digital art.  Using the software is free, too.  Plus, calendars are on sale every October, so it’s perfect for my Christmas gift-giving.

Another idea for using a family calendar would be to have a perpetual calendar of birthdays and special days.  A perpetual calendar just lists days of the month (not days of the week, which vary by year) so it can be used over and over.  This would be a great way to remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days of family members.  Go back a couple of generations, too, beyond the birthdays you celebrate right now.  It’s really fun to celebrate more family members that way.  It helps emphasize connection.  One of my grandfathers was born on Leap Year day (February 29), so that’s a fun thing to always remember.  We had cake one year, too!

Family Faces Books for Kids

The closest my kids have ever lived to their grandparents was a 7-hour drive.  (The furthest was 8 time zones, but that’s another story.)  It has always been important for us to find ways to help our kids connect with their grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles.  Phone calls and letters have been great ways for our kids to get to know and connect with family members, but when they were small, they needed more.  Small kiddos have small memories.  If they went 6 months without seeing grandparents, my kids didn’t remember them very well.  I adore this idea for keeping family faces fresh to little ones.

This board book is an ideal way to help young kids recognize and remember family faces.  (At that link you can also read about the special experience I had making one for my niece about my mom who had recently passed away.  It was tremendously meaningful to her!  At the link you can even see this Family Faces book shown here and click through to see it page by page.)

Every Day

Which of these ideas would help the members of YOUR family?  You can find even more family-strengthening ideas at Gift Ideas for the Whole Family and Four Creative Ideas for Sharing Family Stories.

Having something to see or hold every day really helps people make connections.  My niece reads her book every night!  A calendar and a family tree canvas can be seen every day.  Remembering that we belong is good for the heart and soulPictures do that for us.  Family stories do that for us.  So let’s share them more and do that for each other.

Jennifer Wise

consultant at Heritage Makers
I'm Jennifer, and I'm passionate about connections.I enjoy helping people discover the very real benefits of preserving stories, photos, and memories because of the impact they have on children, families, and individuals. I blog weekly at www.lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com sharing tips, ideas, solutions, and inspiration, and I'm over at www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise, too. Learn more about me at the "About" tab.

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