Today’s topic may be emotionally triggering to those who don’t have a close relationship with their families. I was in this category for a very long time, up until last year. What made the shift for me was overcoming my resistance and making the effort to visit my mum and dad even though they live in different countries, both over a 24-hour journey form me here in Sydney.

The reality is that families aren’t perfect. Whatever you experienced in your family is your truth and no one can take that away from you. I’m not here to tell you to make peace with anyone who’s hurt you in the past. What my experiences showed me was that we are a product of our parents. If you grew up in a household with a mum and a dad, you not only inherited their temperament but also learned behaviours from them. In my case, as the firstborn child of two firstborns, I was expected to not only take care of myself but also my brother. The expectations on me kept piling on without me realising it and one day I decided I couldn’t take the weight of my parents’, more my dad’s, expectations of me and I ended up in the house where I was born, my grandmother’s.

I mentioned that both of my parents are firstborns. Maybe they also felt a huge weight on their shoulders they could no longer bear. Whatever the reason, they too decided to live far away from the families they grew up in. Realising this made me see the pattern. The thing that drove me away from my parents is that we are all too similar. We all know what needs to be done and we go right ahead and do it. When our work is done, we don’t take a breath, but we delve right into all the stuff that’s none of our business. We see someone who can’t find a suitable mate so we step in trying to match him up or someone who needs to lose a few kilos and we talk to him or her about a new gym, in short, we are problem-solvers to the point of driving others away from us. Of course, all of this intrusion in others’ lives is exhausting work (it is parsley behaviour). There’s also no reward. So we feel tired, cranky, overworked and underappreciated. Such a terrible pattern, a curse really, when one is stuck in that vicious cycle.

It was fortunate that I could see my patterns and let me tell you, it’s much easier to visualise your life when you start narrating it. You can either talk about your experiences or if you’re a writer like me, write about your emotions on a daily basis to start each day fresh. I saw someone share that they shower and brush their teeth every day as a part of their hygiene, and as such, one should meditate and journal each and every day to clear the mind.

Without a doubt, starting online family groups, be they on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger has been a huge part of my healing process. I wanted to share some ideas that may make your online family group experience a positive one.

Define the Purpose of Your Group

I have several groups for different purposes. I have one group that’s specifically for sharing my children’s photos, videos and stories, another one for just Mum, Dad, my brother and I. The purpose for these groups is clear.

I also have groups I start from time to time to share photos and videos to put together an online celebration of an upcoming birthday. Again the purpose of these groups is defined and everyone understands what is expected and what the topic of conversation should be.

In my group for my immediate family, we share recipes, especially Mum’s so that I may try them out at home for my family and videos of Turkish TV shows and music videos we enjoy. Because we are set in our intention about what is acceptable and what’s not (any disputes between members is to be discussed outside of the group), the group stays positive and upbeat.

Select the Members

Please bear in mind that everyone consumes media differently and people have different levels of patience and eagerness to read messages that pop up on their telephones. Not everyone enjoys being a part of an online group.

Sit down and plan who you would like to include in your family group and approach them one-on-one if they’d like to be a part of the group so that each and every person in the group is there through their conscious wanting to be there. This will make the group much more lively.

It’s also good to be considerate that people may have challenges with their eyesight or might be dyslexic so you may need to do videos or audio files to inform them of important family events. It’s a good idea to ring a person up if you feel they’re not participating in the group to find out what may be going on with them. It may be that they’re going through a difficult or a challenging time in their life. Reaching out to individuals will only strengthen family bonds.

Come Up with a Name and Photo

Some families like to be identified by their surname, and some may enjoy a nickname to define their tribe. Our family group is called AEEA, which is me wanting to be clever and make it out to be like ABBA. Just as ABBA is derived from the first initials of the members of the band, AEEA is our first initials. And no, we’re not Swedish and haven’t yet released multiple platinum albums.

As for the group photo, pick something to represent your family, this could be an animal, a family coat of arms or a picture of your family together at some event that everyone’s enjoying.

Set-up Regular Catch-Up Events

You could have daily, weekly or monthly catch-ups with your family, depending on how big the group is and the availability of the members. In our groups, we have daily tea breaks around 4PM Sydney time which is Mum’s morning tea in Istanbul. I send a photo of a delicious cup of tea each and every day to remind the members that I’m looking forward to having tea with them. Sometimes my brother joins us and we are now looking into coming up with a time that would allow Dad in DC to join us as well.

If you’re wanting to start an online family group and need a worksheet to help you plan it, check out WritePublishGrow’s Memoir Help page

I won’t lie, it is a bit of work to set it up and to get the conversation flowing, but you’ll find it’s worth the effort. In these times of uncertainty, we can’t afford to be emotionally distant from the people whose love we felt over the years. We will all benefit and grow stronger from having made the effort to reunite and maintain in touch with our family members who’d been there for us in the past.

Over to you…

Are you a member of an online family group? What are the pros and cons for you and how do you think it can be improved? If you’d like to bounce ideas, I’m here. E-mail me