Divorce, separation, and work mean that many parents don’t get to see and hug their kids as much as they would like to. Whatever the reason, long-distance parenting results in many new challenges, above and beyond those that come with divorce. If you can’t move closer to your children, there are still lots of ways to stay involved but you must know How to Parent From A Distance.
Show your ex-partner you appreciate their help in keeping up contact with your kids — no matter how little this may seem at times.
How can I stay in touch?
Knowing how and when you will next be in contact gives you all something to look forward to.
If you do most of the parenting you can help by:
- Encouraging their other parent’s involvement by helping the child mail drawings or letters.
- Arranging for the children to be at home when they are expecting a phone call from their other parent.
- Preparing them for when they are with their other parent.
- Implementing and following a parenting checklist
Plan what you want to say before you ring. Arrange for your children to be able to ring you:
- Organize a phone card or reverse charge number so your child can contact you when they want to.
- Some mobile phone plans can limit the amount of time available. You can get phones to receive calls only, or program them just to call your number.
How to Parent From A Distance
Activities you can share over the phone:
- Bedtime stories.
- Keeping up with sports results.
- Watching the same TV show, movie, or reading the same book to discuss later.
- Planning your next visit together.
Think low budget:
- Email and letters are cheaper than phone calls.
- Small personal presents cost less and are more meaningful than expensive trendy items.
- Find a phone plan to suit you. Some mobile deals allow free time at night or free texts. There are even prepaid yearly plans for unlimited calls and texts across Australia.
- Text messages are cheap, fast and good fun.
Above all – Listen to your children when they do call.
A letter allows you to express things you can’t say over the phone. It also shows that you put in time and effort into staying in touch with your kids.
For small children include:
- Family photos
- A pressed flower or a leaf from your garden
- The comic or joke section from your newspaper
- Stamps/foreign money/stickers
- Quiz questions, Top Ten lists (what I like about you, my new home etc.)
- Something from your workplace
- Messages and news from other members of your family e.g. grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, close friends. Get them to collect things to send the children too.
- Photo stamps
Play games by letter
- Noughts and crosses
Use unusual or funny things to write your letters on:
- Coloured paper
- Wrappers or pictures from magazines
- Travel or work stationery, postcards etc.
- Use coloured or different pens
Faxes or emails… are good ways to share homework over a long distance.
Be reliable — stick with what you start.
Do things that are interesting to you too. Letters don’t need to be very long. Write a few lines each day and post it at the end of the week.
Email and Internet
If you have access to a computer, emails are cheaper than phone calls and more direct than letters. There are many free chat services, or you can go on a virtual tour together through websites like NASA and Questacon. Try a visit to sites like ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) or Disneyland with your kids. Send them a joke.
Email and internet may be available at the local library, school or community centre, or ask a friend if you can use their machine.
Audio and videotapes (great for younger children)
- Borrow a storybook from the library and record a tape of a bedtime story. Your child can get the same book from their library and listen to the tape you’ve sent.
- Tape good luck messages for important events such as sports days and exams. Your child will treasure them.
- Tape a special episode of their favourite TV program. Send it with a letter about how much you enjoyed watching it ‘with’ them.
- Make a video or photo story of your day at work or at home.
- Get someone to video your child playing sport and send it to you.
- Send blank USB Drives for them to make copies of school concerts and other special occasions.
- Ask them if they can borrow a video camera and make a home movie for you.
Warn your children about the dangers of chatting with strangers.
Getting your kids to reply & Keeping in touch
Sometimes you may feel that you do all the work. Children don’t always reply but they will value your contact and the efforts you have made.
Be patient and don’t expect too much. After all, you are doing it for them. Treat anything you get back as a bonus.
Try sending your children:
- Their own special stationery for them to use.
- Self-addressed and stamped envelopes.
- Pre-paid Australia Post envelopes for them to send small items.
- Craft items, such as pens and paper for them to draw something for you.
- Blank tapes with post packs and stamps ready for mailing back.
- A disposable camera. Get them to send it back to you for processing their photos.
- Let them know you would love to get one of their drawings, a photo of them or a copy of their latest schoolwork.
- Keep a pet (fish aren’t too demanding), or even a plant, that you can choose and care for ‘together’. Send a photo or email updates.
- Run your own footy tipping competition.
- Offer to buy fundraising items sold through the school, sponsor 40 Hour Famine etc.
- Sell raffle tickets for your child’s sports team or school.
Keep up extended family connections by writing a family history together:
- Make a list of relatives to contact and plan what sort of information to gather.
- Look on the Internet for information about family trees.
- Share information with your children about your cultural heritage.
It’s never easy to keep in touch over a long distance but when it comes to the special bond of a parent and their child then the effort is well worthwhile. Don’t give up!
Separation and stress go hand in hand…. but knowing How to Parent From A Distance is critical. If you would like to discuss your parenting arrangement with an expert Mackay family law specialists, then please reach out to book an appointment.