Don’t let distance interfere with your ability to parent after divorce.
Recently, I’ve had several dads write to me about their challenges related to creating a close bond with their children from a distance. These parents didn’t move away to escape their responsibility as parents and they clearly want to stay connected to their kids.
One father wrote: “Can I have a good father-daughter relationship from a 200-mile distance?” Another father asked: Is it possible to create a close bond with my son from a distance? Inherent in both of these questions is the parent’s desire to maintain a loving connection with their children.
It’s never easy for children to be separated from their parents, whether it’s because of a brief business trip or a move across the country due to a job or personal reason. However, after divorce, the stakes get higher because children of divorce often feel the sting of rejection after one of their parent’s move out.
It’s also normal for children and young adults whose parents never marry to experience feelings of loss and rejection when one of their parents moves away. Likewise, children raised by a stepparent may experience some of these same emotions if they are close to their stepparent and they move away or lose contact after divorce.
While it’s probably more common for fathers to live at a distance from their children after a divorce or breakup, some mothers may need to move due to career or personal reasons and may be separated from their children at times. Consequently, the following tips were written in a gender-neutral manner.
7 tips to make and keep a connection with your kids long-distance:
1. Send your child funny or interesting postcards once a week. If you have more than one child, some group cards are acceptable. Make sure to make the messages positive such as “I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!” or “Good luck on your spelling test.”
2. Call at different times. While it’s a good idea to have a regular time to call your child, spontaneous phone calls can be a nice surprise and help your child to feel that you are thinking of him/her.
3. Use text, Skype, e-mail, and Instagram in addition to regular phone calls. Be sure to send photos and ask questions about their week such as: “How was the sleepover at Madison’s house?”
4. Get to know your children’s friends and be sure to invite them on vacations and outings. Meeting the parents of your children’s friends can be a big plus because they will feel more comfortable if you invite them on a weekend excursion such as camping trip or a stay at a hotel.
5. Tune into your child’s passions and engage in small talk about it. Research online and in-person ways to engage with them in these interests.
6. Be sure to have plenty of alone time with your children when they visit. If you have a new partner in your life, don’t introduce them unless you’re fairly sure it’s a permanent relationship.
7. Ask your child what’s the best way to stay in touch. For instance, would they prefer that you travel to visit them? Or, do they want to come see you? You may find that this changes from time to time so be sure to have regular check-ins with him/her.
Many parents who live at a distance from their children after a divorce or breakup say it comes down to quantity versus quality time with their children.
I recommend that they make the best of the situation by focusing on the quality of contact and not let feelings of guilt or regret impact them greatly because they don’t have as much time with their kids.
It’s normal to miss your children when you don’t see them every day and letting them know this can be healing. On the other hand, if you stay connected with their kids after divorce, you need not be overwhelmed with guilt or self-blame. It’s best to focus on things you can control such as maintaining regular communication and staying tuned into their interests and passions.
Follow Terry on movingpastdivorce.com, Twitter, and Facebook. Her “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship” can be ordered on her site or amazon.com.
This article appeared previously on movingpastdivorce.com
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