Helping children cope with a long-distance parenting situation is the responsibility of both parents. Reasons one parent may live a long distance from their children can include:
- Employment opportunities
- Military Deployment
- Jail or prison
- Taking care of an elderly parent
The why of the separation is not nearly as important to a child as it is for them to retain some semblance of a relationship with their long-distance parent. There are several steps parents can take, both as a parenting team, and individually, to keep the child’s focus on their relationship with their long-distance parent.
Work as a Team
Working as a team may not be a given set of divorced parents’ best skill set. However, for the mental health and wellbeing of the child, working together as a team can make a huge difference in their life. Children thrive when they have healthy relationships with each of their parents. Working as a team may mean that the away parent coordinates phone and video calls with the other parent to ensure they do not interfere with meal times, bed times, or other times important to the rhythm of the family. It can also mean that the parent with whom the child is primarily residing with actively works with their child to create a list of talking points to share with the away parent when they do connect. This could include setting aside art work or science projects to share with the other parent. It may include keeping a running diary of short stories and incidents to relay when parent and child connect. It also may include creating an email account to allow the child to contact their away parent regularly.
When possible, create a consistent schedule of contact. Children who consistently know when they will next have contact with their away parent feel more secure than those who’s contact is more random. Create a family calendar that is easy to locate and view, using colors, stickers, or other ways to indicate to the child when they will have contact with the other parent.
Plan for and Celebrate the Parent-Child Reunification
When a reunification date is known, such as a planned visit or a parent’s return, share this date with the child. There are a number of ways to plan for and celebrate a parent/child reunification. One could, for example, create a calendar and cross off each day at the end of the day, with the upcoming reunification date clearly marked. Another approach could be a “count down.” Consider filling a jar with marbles, with each marble representing one day. Each evening transfer one marble to another location. These visual cues provide the child with reassurances about eventual reunification with their other parent.
If you are considering a divorce, you need a family law attorney who can look out for your needs and the needs of your children. Particularly if you or your spouse will be a long distance parent, a strong parenting plan is essential. Eric C. Cheshire, P.A., has more than 25 years of experience crafting parenting plans for divorcing families. Let him put his experience to work for you. Call today to schedule a consultation at (561) 677-8090.