Relationships

11 Texts To Send To Stay In Touch With Family

Here’s what to say when you don’t have big news to share.

Photo of a young woman on a road trip sitting on pick-up truck texting her family to stay in touch.
AleksandarNakic/E+/Getty Images

You’ve got a family WhatsApp going, but it seems to drift off into silence whenever no one’s graduating from college or getting a new job. Maybe there was an argument that didn’t really get resolved, or nobody is a champion communicator, or you’re all in different states and there’s a Lot Going On. If you’re looking for ways to keep in touch with family members without having to pick up the phone, experts say a well-placed text can work wonders.

After 18 months of COVID, people are feeling particularly disconnected from their families because of long months of separation and enforced Zoom calls. “I haven’t seen my mom in person since, like, April 2020,” May, 27, tells Bustle. “I’m really tired of just seeing her face on video. She’s gotten really into Supernatural, so all our chats are about that.”

Particularly if there’s been an argument, being the one to step up to the conversational plate can be a model for the rest of your fam. “Making attempts at reconciliation and reconnection can be healing in the long run,” Julie S. Heinl, LMFT, a therapist with therapy platform Alma, tells Bustle. But even if family silence isn’t full of hurt, it can be hard to navigate. Saying that you just want to check in might not have the right tone, and sending a random factoid or picture could mean the conversation drifts back into nothingness again quickly. Here are some ideas on what to say when you want to get back in touch with your fam.

“I Saw XYZ Today! It Reminded Me Of You”

A reference to past conversations — particularly if they’re dumb family in-jokes, like a giant singing bass or a dachshund in a raincoat — can open the channels of communication in a fun way. It’s also a good lead-in to a follow-up question about how your cousin’s liking her new internship.

“How Did That Big XYZ Go?”

“Referencing a specific challenge that you've talked about with someone lets the person know you have been thoughtful of them and are genuinely interested in hearing an update,” Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LMHC, tells Bustle. Maybe they were struggling at work or you remember your aunt was attempting to plant a giant cherry tree without success. The specificities may touch off a conversation.

“So, What’s Been Going On?”

If things have been fraught, it can be hard to keep a conversation opener neutral. “There are three types of communication — passive, aggressive, and assertive,” Heinl says. “We always want to strive for assertive communication where the person stands up for their own needs, wants, and feelings, but also listens to and respects the needs of others, without behaving passively or aggressively.” Be open, but not demanding.

“I Thought We Might XYZ This Summer — What Do You Think?”

Future plans can be a good way to reopen a conversation. “Find ways to connect while distanced, Amy Cirbus PhD, LPC, LMHC, director of clinical content at Talkspace, tells Bustle. “Bring some ideas to the table and ask for theirs.” Fishing trip? Movie night? Skype? Throw something out there.

“How Are You Feeling After XYZ?”

If a family member is going through something and might want to chat about it, make it clear you’re there to listen. “Verbally empathize with your family members’ feelings,” Cirbus says. “Giving space for their feelings goes a long way.”

“I’ve Been Thinking About You Guys”

Anwar tells Bustle that statements like this are a really good conversation starter because they indicate you care, and that your family is important to you even when you’re not talking.

“Remember When We XYZ?”

That time your dad fell off the lawn mower, that incident with a stolen pie in fourth grade — a sweet (or chaotic) shared memory can be a good way to reconnect with family. Chances are that somebody will still have strong feelings about it years later (yes, you absolutely are guilty of putting your sister’s lipstick all over your face at age four, but she shouldn’t have left it on her dresser).

“I Was Wondering XYZ About Grandpa”

There are some things only family knows — and that you may never get the chance to ask anybody else. What did your great-grandfather actually do for work? Who really owned that bizarre clock sitting on the fireplace? Why were all your ancestors banned from Arkansas? A fun trip into family lore can make for a conversation spark.

“How Are You Managing Right Now?”

Anwar says this is a good way to start a chat with family members who’ve been carrying a lot on their plate (new baby, new job, house move), particularly if that’s why they haven’t been in touch recently. If you like, you can also offer up some help, or ask what you can do in this moment to support them.

“I Need Some Help With XYZ — Any Advice?”

A crossword clue, a tip on finding a good bank for your mortgage, how to cook something in oil without setting the kitchen on fire — asking for advice is always a good way to open communication because it’s a) flattering and b) creates an easy avenue for an answer.

“Want To Schedule A Chat?”

Sometimes nothing is quite as good as a voice on the other end of a phone, no matter how many .gifs or YouTube clips you exchange. Taking action to get an actual call in the calendar, and then sticking to it, can be a really good way to keep in touch.

Experts:

Bisma Anwar LMHC

Amy Cirbus Ph.D. LPC LMHC

Julie S. Heinl LMFT