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How to Make Long-distance Parenting Work

Rohini Mohan
Irrespective of what may have widened the gap between you and your kids, there are some effective measures that can be employed to help make long-distance parenting work for you.
"... the physical separation hurts. Many miles means no way to hug, to brush back a forelock of hair, to drop in on football practice, or to watch a first book report being written. The parent separated from the child feels this pain and so does the child" - Dr. Isolina Ricci's; Mom's House, Dad's House
It can be very hard for parents to be away from their children, and even harder for the kids to cope with the lack of interaction and distance.

The situation becomes even tougher when the kids are not old enough to understand why one parent is moving away or not at home often. Toddlers for instance, are much too young to develop strong bonds and thus can grow distant from a parent who isn't around much.
Unavoidable circumstances, such as having to move to another state or country for work, being in the military, or getting separated or divorced can spell doom for parent-child relationship.
Even though you may not be physically present to be with your children, you can still foster a meaningful relationship with them. This AptParenting article discusses some effective ways to make long-distance parenting work.

Stay Connected with Your Kids

Give them a lot of attention

When it comes to kids, you have got to give them a lot of attention so that they do not feel left out or forgotten. You must make it a point to talk to your children as often as possible, so that you feel involved in their lives and they feel like an integral part of yours.
Sending text messages
Ask about their day and how they spend it. Sending text messages is a good way to stay connected but that itself is not enough. Send text messages alone, is an extremely impersonal way of communicating and makes it impossible to express feelings wholeheartedly.
Which is why, you will need to keep in touch with your kids through video chats, calls, and emails.
There will be days when you are just too busy to make the usual calls, but that does not mean you don't call at all. Try to fit in time to send a few text messages and keep the conversation short.

Give the child some time to cool off

There will also be days when kids may not be interested in talking, because they are busy watching an interesting show, feeling moody, or just plain angry at the parent for not being there for a special occasion.
The best thing to do in such situations is to give the child some time to cool off, so that the issue can be discusses later.
Go and get your share of parental time with your kids
Your kids need to see you smile at the sight of them, hear you laugh and the same goes for you. Don't let the feeling of having missed out get to you, instead, go and get your share of parental time with your kids.
Traditional method of sending letters and cards
While it is great to rely on technology to keep in touch with your kids, you could also make use of the traditional method of sending letters and cards. If your child has made a drawing or craft work for you, ask the other parent to save them or send them to you by mail.
Once you receive the card or letter, show it to the child on the webcam. You too must write letters and send small gifts to your child whenever possible.

Find Something in Common to Do

Share some common interests

It is always easier to talk to your kids, if you share some common interests with them. Even if you don't really relate with your child's hobby, you could still make an effort to connect at some level.
Play online with their kids
Parents who love playing computer games or listening to music, can play online with their kids or share funny videos and latest songs. You could even watch a game on the television or through live streaming and relay the events of the game to one another.
Fix a time for calling
Fix a time for calling your child, so that she/he will not be left anticipating for the next call. To make these calls more interesting, you can make a schedule of activities to do and add variety, so that both of you have fun.

Play a game

For instance, you could play a game where both of you are required to keep the conversation going, without asking a single question or without using the word "I" while speaking.

Help Out the Other Parent

Reinforce the other parent's rules and authority
Irrespective of whether you're present or not, you must make an active effort to help the other parent in looking after the kids. You will need to reinforce the other parent's rules and authority, if the child is rebelling. Whenever needed, you will have to put your foot down and tell the child to obey the other parent.

Hear out what your child has to say about a particular problem

A long-distance parent need not know the ground realities of the parent-child relationship at home, and thus must always be supportive towards the parent who is looking after the child alone.
That beings said, you must hear out what your child has to say about a particular problem and thereafter, try to find a midway out of the situation.

Child must not be made to feel as if the long-distance parent does not care

Never berate the other parent in front of the child, as that will set an extremely bad and unfair example for the child to emulate.
Both parents being equally important must be given equal love, respect, and treatment. The child must not be made to feel as if the long-distance parent does not care for the child or other parent. The dynamics of relationship between the couple, must not come in the way of building a healthy parent-child relationship.

Parenting plan

The long-distance parent will also need the support of the other parent, in ensuring that parenting plan, outings, sleepovers, vacations, or call times are followed. This is especially important among divorced couples, wherein the long-distance parent intends to maintain a healthy relationship with the children.

Make Every Minute Count

What matters most is how much quality time you are able to spend with your child. You will need to make the most of every chance you get to interact with your child. Even a few minutes of laughter can go a long way in building a strong foundation for the parent-child relationship.

Lend an ear

You must keep your children's curiosity alive and entertain all their random questions and unconnected thoughts. You must always be there to lend an ear to everything they have to say.
Most importantly, you will need to be persistent and be there for them, even if they seem angry or in no mood to communicate with you. Patience is another key virtue that all parents must inculcate, even in times when they feel frazzled and tested to their limits.

Remain positive and approachable

Long-distance parents must also ensure that they remain positive and approachable, while interacting with their children. Being reprimanded for trivial things and not being appreciated often, can make children withdraw from the long-distance parent, thereby making things even more complicated for the family as a whole.
Most importantly, you must always be affectionate and loving while interacting with your children, as the amount of time spent is less and priceless. Good parenting knows no boundaries, and that holds true even for long-distance parents.