Every generation that leaves home seems to go further and further away. Luckily, technology like conference calls keeps getting better at bringing us closer together with face to face communication.

Because when that last little duckling in the family up and flies off to University or Ireland for the first time—and the old gander and goose are left moping around the house—there are some mixed emotions all around.

For the kids, there is a sense of exhilarating freedom, not just from the rules and regulations of childhood, but from the very feel of it. Ahh, the spaciousness of leaving home! It’s a delicious lack of parental proximity.

Yet it is so great to come back for the weekend…

For parents, of course, there is a little too much spaciousness. Children roll out like an ocean tide that forgot to return. Parents suddenly realize that all those hairs floating around the bathroom and the outrageous electric bills were a small price to pay.

The smell of a newborn, and the way their impossibly tiny fingers curl around yours like little sea tendrils, is unforgettable.

So how to stay connected? Facebook has current pictures, if you are brave enough to look at some of the pictures your kids post. Emails are almost obsolete, but they make good vehicles for links to interesting videos. Texts have a wonderful immediacy.

But conference calls are the best way to keep a family in touch. Why?

Birthday dinner get-together

Conference calls are free
“Because they are free” is one reason families appreciate using conference calls to keep in touch

Because family conference calls are just like going out to someone’s birthday dinner get-together. Birthday dinner is always a special occasion, because everyone drops everything and shows up.

Birthday dinners are all about the whole family being together—and no one else.

Conference calls have all the emotional cohesion, exclusivity, and intimacy of birthday dinners, with one amazing difference, (much appreciated by parents).

They are free.

Humour

Adding the power of live face-to-face to conference calls is easy with video conferencing, which works nowhere better than when sharing humour.

Every family has their own brand of humour. Often the youngest child will be the straw that stirs the family drink on this one. The tradition of the “sacred fool” goes way back past Shakespeare.

But humour just isn’t the same in texts and emails. A key reason families use conference calls to keep in touch is because they are such a good platform for sharing humour.

Family humour only really unfolds when the whole group is together, and each cog can fit into the whole mechanism, like some medieval clownish clockwork.

So many great features…

Conference calls are so much cheaper than plane tickets; they allow families who might be continents apart to connect as easily as a Sunday dinner, and with the Recurring Call feature, a weekly call is a snap to produce.

Another advantage of video calls is the Call Record feature. Call Record is unobtrusive. No one can see a webcam pointing at anyone else. We all know the children’s nightmare of having their activities recorded, and parents have of documenting the inexorable entropy of their physical appearance.

No one needs to know about Call Record until five years later—when they will appreciate it!

Call record is a small price upgrade on free conference calls, and offering Toll Free Numbers is another low cost enhancement to free conference calling. Both of them are cheaper than dinner for four.

Screen Sharing is a free feature that requires no download, no software learning curve, and is accessible with just one click in the top right corner of your free online personal meeting room. Screen sharing is great for chatting over Facebook pages, pictures, interesting web articles, or an A++ thesis on “How to Save the World.”

Emotional connection

When families use conference calls to keep in touch, the place where the high quality audio connection really pays off is by providing the perfect platform for a warm and clear emotional connection.

If one family member is going through an emotional time or experience, a good audio signal can make all the difference so everyone can hear exactly how they feel.

Remember when you were really small, and you stayed up late in a thunderstorm? The dog was hiding under the bed, but you felt safe and protected with those parental arms around you, watching the flashes of lightning, listening to the thunder roll.

Conference calls are so good at promoting communication in families; they’ll make you wonder why you didn’t start doing them when you all lived together!