Long distance parenting can be effective and you can still use lots of good parenting skills to help foster a healthy and happy relationship with your child.
Being a long distance parent can happen for a variety of reasons such as divorce, separation, job relocation, education away from home or illness in the family. However, don’t despair – you can still incorporate good parenting skills and have a loving, caring relationship with your child, be they a toddler or a teenager.
It’ll take time and care to maintain and develop a strong relationship from a distance but you can do it.
Here are some long distance parenting tips to help you:
- Make the most of technology. Use texting and emails just to say hello or to share something of your day. If you have a toddler then send fun pictures, perhaps of where you are, or what you are doing. Send a message for your partner (or ex-partner) to read out to your toddler. Make an effort to take photos of you doing whatever you do in your day.
- Keep in good contact with your child’s other parent (whether you are together or not!). Ask the other parent to send YOU pictures and messages. If the long distance is due to a separation then work together with your ex-partner for the sake of your children so that the children are the top priority.
- Send postcards to your children. When a child gets something in the mail or post, it’s very exciting for them! It doesn’t take much time and they will love it. Sending a postcard or letter will make them feel special. You can set up a postcard club so that your child sends you cards too. It can be a really fun activity and enables your child to share their life with you and for you to share theirs. Even if you have a toddler, your partner can help your toddler choose a nice postcard when they are out, and pop it in the post.
- Have a phone date – daily, weekly, twice-weekly, monthly – whatever is convenient and feels right for all parties. And keep this a priority. Do not miss it, or be late to call. Your child needs to feel valued and special and this date will be very important to her.
- Make a family website where all parties can upload photos and information about what they are up to.
- Make a video or an audio tape recording. You an upload videos onto your website. Or if you’re not that technologically inspired simply pop a cassette into the post or mail. And ask your partner to do the same so that you can have a tape of your child. Hearing each other’s voices will help maintain the bond on both sides.
- Schedule in time to visit or go on holidays together. Ensure that the holiday will be of interest to your children and this will depend on their ages. Include them in the planning of a holiday so that you can listen to their input.
- Be involved in your child’s schooling and ask the school to send you reports and information. If you child has a special event at school then be sure to put it in your diary so that you will remember to wish them luck beforehand and then ask them how it went after the event.
- When you are sending emails, texts, or on the phone be sure to really listen to your child. Show them that you are listening and tell them that you love them. Try not to ask your child to pass messages to the other parent, nor ask questions about the parent. Just focus on your child.
- Children need to know when they are next having contact with you. So after a phone call, be sure to tell them when you are next phoning them, even if it is always the same, just add in, for example, “I’ll speak to you next Wednesday at 7pm”.
- If you have a toddler then send little fun gifts in the post e.g. stickers, little hats, a little teddy, a little book. Send a tape with you reading a story so that they an have a bedtime story almost with you. Send them lots of pictures of you.
- You could also have a subscription to a kids magazine so that you both have the same. That gives you something in common and something to talk about. On the phone you could look at it together with the other parent. Or you could look at it whilst you use Webcam – make the most of the technology on offer.
- You can play online games together today – even for toddlers!
- If you have the same story book you could also read a book down the phone whilst your child sits with the other parent.
- When you do see your child be prepared for changes and new likes and dislikes. Relax and go with the flow with a number of planned activities that you have planned together. With long distance parenting the time you have together will be very special – take photos, make a journal so that you can talk about it and refer back to it sometimes.
- With a young child, use simple questions when you’re on the phone. Rather than ask, what did you do today? Ask something simple, did you go to the park? Have you seen your friends today? Children will love to listen to you about your day and involve things that they are likely to be interested in such as animals, funny stories, anything that they will know about.
Speak to your partner or ex-partner about the importance of both parents encouraging a good relationship with both parents and how you both can make long distance parenting work as well as possible.
This could involve joining in a child’s excitement about sending or receiving mail from the long distance parent, speaking positively about the other parent, letting the children know it’s great to look forward to seeing the other parent, talking about the children’s time with the other parent, etc. If both parents SHOW that your children can SHARE their excitement then this will help your children maintain an open and happy relationship with both parents.
Work together to make long distance parenting work – it’s the best thing you can do for your child, whatever the circumstances. You and your child will then develop a strong relationship which will last a lifetime.