Miles away? Here are some fun family activities you can still enjoy

Miles away? Here are some fun family activities you can still enjoy

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Does it really, though?

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) make their living abroad, either because of poverty, the availability of better opportunities, or the desire for an adventure, usually with the goal of better providing for dependents that remain in the Philippines.

But while prosperity motivates many to work abroad, potential social costs are also considerable, so that the distance between families, and the stress of reintegration upon the OFW’s return home or their family’s eventual migration, can lead to the family’s breakdown.

Fortunately, the evolution of technology in recent years means that keeping the family intact is much easier now than it had been ten years ago. Following the internet and technology’s lead, here are some ideas for easy and fun activities OFWs and their families can regularly bond over across borders and time zones:

1. Develop and regularly update a family newsletter
Fans of the comedy sitcom FRIENDS would probably be familiar with the concept of the Geller Yeller. A regular newsletter, this is a means for the members of the Geller family to keep up with each other’s lives, especially as the grown-up children, Ross and Monica, have long since moved out (it also doubled as a platform for very entertaining sibling rivalry as Ross and Monica try to outdo each other in achievements and parental affection).

A creative activity for any family, this is especially useful for OFW families, allowing family members to keep afloat of the happenings in each other’s lives even when school work, office workload, or time differences make it difficult to make or answer a call. Several platforms are available for different styles: Blogger and LiveJournal cater to the more articulate and creative, allowing multiple users to format the background and text as they prefer; a Facebook page is perfect for convenience with its centralized notifications that eliminate the need to switch between a Facebook account and another website to check for updates; chatroom-style messaging apps add a little more fun, with an array of funny GIFs to comment on others’ posts.

2. Watch a TV series together
With the boom in popularity of Netflix and iFlix, as well as the free online streaming options of big television networks such as HBO, Disney Channel, ABC Family, among others, watching a TV show no longer requires viewers to sit in front of the TV at a specific time. The combination of online streaming and fast internet speed means that it is now possible to watch a television show anytime, anywhere in the world.

This means that holding viewing parties are no longer limited by geographical and time zone constraints, and it is entirely possible to schedule a weekend tv series marathon or weekly online screening of an episode of a tv show in the Philippines with a parent or sibling in Dubai, London, L.A. or Milan. Paired with the use of video calling apps such as Skype, Viber or Facetime, family member can also react and discuss what they're watching in real time.

3. Compete with each other in online family games
Impressively, the internet’s breaking of geographical boundaries goes all the way to the digitalization of classic family board games. Allowing for up to four players on different computers and mobile devices, family game nights, like television screenings, need not be limited to the potentially limited rare vacations at home of the OFW or the vacation trips of his/her family to the country of his/her work.

Monopoly, Pictionary and UNO are just some of the games that allow for family bonding and the fostering of a friendly parents vs. children or boys vs. girls competitive spirit.

4. Ensure that family video calls are held regularly
Even with all these activities however, it remains important to have regular face-to- face family conversations to maintain a healthy communication between family members, to ensure that respect and understanding remain between parents and children, and to consequently strengthen the family’s cohesion despite the distance. Important topics such as significant events in the lives of family members, important decisions that have to be made as a family, and even mundane subjects such as recent travels, outings with friends, the state of health of family members, and visits of relatives are much more enjoyable when discussed face-to-face.

Ensuring that the family regularly keeps in touch with one another is significantly easier now, with video calls becoming common in messaging apps. Elsewhere, Skype also offers Skype to cellphone calls at very reasonable and affordable rates. Significantly, this means that there is no excuse to not hold at least weekly, even short, family video calls, adaptable to the schedules of the family members.


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