How to Be a Better Long Distance Parent – Part 2

Continuing our discussion  of how to be a better long distance parent, the following are some additional questions I commonly hear when a long distance parenting relationship is imminent.

Q:  My child is 4 years old, what suggestions do you have for things to do to help improve my long distance relationship with my child?  Because of the expense I can only visit her about three times a year?

Some preschool children are able to speak clearly and love to talk on the phone.  But there are other completely normal children who do not feel comfortable on the phone.  Skype or Face-time is generally easier for children.  Of course, the children will need an adult nearby to set up the session.  If it is possible, let the children show you some of their favorite toys and friends.  Ideally, it would be great to have a set time to talk and skype with your children.  The most important piece of advice is to be flexible.  If during your “regular” skype time, your child has a play date, try asking if it would be possible to have your child and his friend skype with you.  Keep the session short and be up-beat.  Remember to thank your ex for arranging the session.

Continue to send video clips, letters and emails as often as possible.  Try to send something at least five days a week.  Remember this is your opportunity to connect with your children.  When you speak with your child, talk about the activities you did together, i.e. going to the zoo, visiting relatives, etc.  When you travel to see your children take a lot of pictures and videos, so that you can share the memories again and again with your children.

For children that like to do puzzles, send puzzles that you have started for your children to complete.  They can show them to you on Skype or Face-time.  Children love to receive snail mail with little “surprises”, stickers, baseball cards, pictures of you and your family and pets.

Q:  I have twin girls that are 8 years old.  I only get to see them twice a year.  I lived with their Father until they were 7.  I miss them very much.  What can I do to improve my relationship in between “live” visits?

It is very difficult for you and your girls to be so far apart.  Hopefully, since you lived with them in the same household until a year ago, you have a lot to build on.  It is extremely important that you call and email your children’s teachers so that you receive the same reports on the children’s progress as their Father.  If one of the girls needs extra help in a school subject, make sure that you are aware of tests that are coming up.  Try to schedule a special Skype session to tutor your child.  Use technology such as to work together.  When you visit, if it is possible, stay at a hotel with a kitchenette so that you are able to prepare meals together.  If they are mature and the distance is not too great, they should be able to fly to see you soon. Most airlines allow unaccompanied minors to fly after age 12, for an extra fee.

Q:  I have a teenage daughter who is 15.  Her mother and I had a brief relationship, but I have always paid child support.  I see my daughter less than three times a year.  I would like to get closer to her, but I do not know how to start.

It is a challenge to get closer to teenager children – even when they live in the same household!  As parents we want our children to develop their individual interests and make friends.  It is normal for teenagers to want to spend more time with their friends than either parent.  Try not to take it personally.  At some point in your daughter’s life, she will want to be closer.  Until that point, stay very involved with her schoolwork and athletic activities.  If it is possible, try to attend a few of her athletic games or practices.  If you are financially able to take her on  special trips from time to time, that would be great. If a trip is out of your budget, how about tickets to a local concert or an athletic event.  Girls (of all ages)  particularly love to receive little gifts, such as teddy bears. Gift certificates for restaurants or even coupons for food discounts are thoughtful.

Try to have some kind of contact with your daughter at least twice a week.  It can be as simple as an email with a video, a silly card or a little gift, i.e. earrings.  The important message is to keep the dialogue open.

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