Parenting is hard enough as it is. When you add distance to the usual problems of parenting, it’s easy for frustration to come into the mix, but don’t worry—you can still have a positive impact on your child’s life. With some planning and a little effort, you can maintain a parent-child relationship from afar, and we can help you learn how.
Depending on how things ended with your former partner, it may be difficult to keep lines of communication open with them. However, it’s one of the best ways to stay informed as to the events of your child’s life.
When you talk to your child, they might have more exciting things to tell you about than their recent trip to the doctor’s office. Let your kid tell you the fun stuff, but do what you can to stay updated on important happenings through your ex.
As far as the other parents are concerned, you’re shouldering far less responsibility and have less to deal with, so try and stay sympathetic to the situation they’re in. If they express that a certain day is better than another for calling your child, remember that they’re more informed of the situation than you and try to accommodate them.
Early in the long-distance experience, take some time to develop a parenting plan. When the kids are with the custodial parent, how will you schedule contact, and how often will it happen? How will your child get to the long-distance parent, and when will that happen? Who is responsible for the associated travel expenses?
There’s a lot to think about, but creating a structure helps both parents plan their lives around the child. School, friends, and extracurricular activities can change plans at the last minute, so make sure your schedule is adaptable and can handle a shake-up every now and then.
A few nice surprises go a long way, but never underestimate the importance of consistency. Long-distance parenting is a lot to adapt to for a child, so setting clear expectations and building a structure from the outset can help tremendously. While life can find a way to interrupt your regularly scheduled parenting plan, ensure there is a clear schedule.
Your child wants to know when they’ll be able to see you, so set aside an evening each week for a regular call—this will lessen the strain of being apart.
Luckily for long-distance parents, you can enjoy more communication with your child than merely through audio. Using Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and any number of other video-calling applications, you can stay in contact with your kid visually as well as audibly.
This is a great way to see your children at various stages of their life— you don’t want to miss seeing what they look like when they lose a tooth for the first time! You can also use this technology as a vehicle for show-and-tell to stay updated on any art projects or their cool new toys.
When your child is old enough for a cell phone, text messaging will be your best friend. While video calls are ideal, kids today are used to texting rather than calling. If you want to stay consistently updated on their life, you’ll hear a lot more over text than phone calls or emails.
Mail is very exciting for kids (they don’t have bills to dread yet), so send a care package, either for a special occasion or just because. A handwritten letter every now and again wouldn’t go amiss, but you can also send small toys or baked goods to let them know you’re thinking of them.
Sharing your favorite movies and shows with your kids is one of the best parts of parenting, and there’s no reason it has to be in person! Consider planning a movie night every once in a while. Hop on a video call with your kid, pick a movie, and give a countdown until you both press play simultaneously.
You’ll find yourselves laughing at the same moments, gasping at the same surprises, and tearing up during the same heartfelt scenes.
As much as you want to hear about your child’s days at school, they want to know about your life. Many parents don’t end up sharing much about their day-to-day, but kids want to understand what’s happening with you, too. Learning more about what you’re up to at work or a funny encounter at the bank helps them feel like they’re as much a part of your life as you are of theirs.
Not every call has to be a two-hour debrief on everything that happened during the week. Feel free to send a video message or leave a voicemail reminding your child that you love them. It’s a simple way to let your child know that you think of them outside of the designated contact times.
We can only give you so many ideas because we don’t know what your relationship with your child is like. You do, so branch out from these suggestions! Come up with new ways to show your care and surprise your kid—you can do it better than anyone.
When the time comes to see your child in person, make the most of it. Keep pressuring questions about the other parent to a minimum, and enjoy every second you have with your child. That said, ensure you maintain some structure—kids need it!
Keep a consistent bedtime schedule and let them help out with some of your chores. These “normal” activities will allow your child to feel like time with you is “family time” like it is with their other parent.
You don’t want your eyes constantly glued to a phone, but don’t let special moments go by without snapping a picture. You’ll want a record of important memories as the years go by. Stay in the moment, but make sure you keep a little something to look back on.
Now that you have a better idea of how to maintain a parent-child relationship from afar, just focus on enjoying everything you get to do with your kid. Whether it’s in-person or over the internet, there are precious moments made every day. You don’t have to navigate this on your own, either—we’re here to help with professional child custody attorneys in Illinois. Reach out if you need us.