Keep contact alive: I realise I don’t know my kids as well as I thought!
Separation often means you have to parent one-on-one for the first time and need a plan to keep contact alive. This can be a major challenge!
At the same time, it is a new chance to get to know your child as a person and show them they are of utmost importance to you.
Ways you can get to know them better:
- Do you know their day-to-day routine? what do they do after school? Do they have sport, music or dance lessons? Are they learning another language? What time do they eat dinner and when do they play, do homework and go to bed?
- To start the ball rolling, have some questions up your sleeve. What are their favorite songs, games, TV shows and sports? Who are their friends? What do they want to be when they grow up? What places in Australia or the world would they like to visit and why?
- Note in your diary or a notebook, birthday, special days or cultural/ religious days that are important to you and your children. Use this information to help you plan an extended family or follow up important things like exams.
Kids have their own ways of doing things. Let them know you love them for who they are.
Talking on the phone is just not the same…
- Phone calls can’t replace being with your children but they are a great way of staying in touch. Whatever happens, you are making contact and kids realise that you care.
- Try ringing at regular times so your children can expect and look forward to your calls.
- Find a time when they will be relaxed and not expected to be doing homework, eating dinner, rushing out to sports practice etc.
- Regular short chats may be better with young children. Call sometimes just to say goodnight, share a joke or tell them about something funny that happened to you – even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.
- Teenagers may not say very much but they do like regular contact. Long silences can be normal. Don’t give up. It doesn’t mean you are not important to them.
Get started – pick up the phone. If the distance is an issue, look into the purchase of a pre-paid calling card or sim so your child can ring you.
But, I don’t know what to say…
Think about what you are going to say before your pick up the phone. The more you talk to your children, the more things will flow and you will discover how special they are.
- Arrange to help with schoolwork over the phone. Listen to them do their times tables, homework essays or even music practice over the phone.
- What have they been doing since the last time you talked? Show that you are interested in what they do when they are not with you. Keeping notes in a diary or calendar can help.
- Talk to them about the ordinary things that happened to you when you were a kid or things you liked. This will help your kids to share their experience with you.
- You don’t need to have instant solutions to their problems. Just listen to what they say and show interest.
- Help children talk about the bad as well as the good things. Ask them about how they are feeling as well as what they are doing.
- Tell them you love them before you hang up.
This is your chance to get to know your kids better. Don’t blow it by asking questions about their other parent or showing animosity.
I get so up-tight before I see them!
It’s understandable. You want things to go smoothly and you want your kids to relax and enjoy themselves to keep contact alive.
It helps to plan ahead. Know who is collecting or dropping off the children and where this will take place. Call the other parent a few days before to be clear on the arrangements and make sure there are no surprises.
Start in good form – turn up, be on time, be reliable.
Contact the children before the visit:
- Remind them when you will see them next and keep contact alive.
- Let them help plan your time together.
- Remind them of any special things they may need to bring.
- Don’t use your kids to pass messages to the other parent.
How can I make my place feel like our home?
It helps to think of your child as having two homes, one with mum and one with dad.
- If you move house consider living close by – within cycling distance of school if possible.
- Give them a room of their own and let them help with decorating.
- If they can’t have a room, give them a space of their own that they don’t have to share with others. A cupboard, desk, bookcase or storage box is okay.
- Display family photos and things that have special meaning for you all.
- Find toys, books, and games they like. Try your local toy library or garage sales. Let your kids help.
- Include some outside games: bats, balls, frisbees, bikes. Go to the local park where there’s room for the kids to kick a ball or play on the swings.
- Avoid hassles about the basics and keep things at your places like toothbrushes, pajamas, socks, underwear, t-shirts, shorts and their medications.
- A basic first aid kit could include children’s paracetamol, band-aids, antiseptic wipes, etc.
- Make sure you’ve got food and snacks they will eat in the fridge.
To be continued… and we will be discussing more helpful hints for those experiencing child custody issues so please stay tuned.