News - Parenting

Staying Connected with our Children over Long Distances

By Seth Mullins

One frequent by-product of divorce is the separation of at least one parent from his or her children. For their own happiness and well being, our young ones really need the presence and support of both mom and dad. Sometimes, though, custody and living arrangements make this ideal impossible. So what can non-custodial parents do to maximize their interaction when they can’t be physically present in their children’s lives for stretches of time?

The goal will then be to maintain clear, effective and frequent communication. Since our time is precious and slim, we need to make it count. We should take advantage of every opportunity we find to reiterate our love for our children, our awareness of what is going on in their lives and the pride we take in them and their achievements. If we demonstrate how much we know about – or are interested in – their school life, significant upcoming events, and who their friends are, for example, then we create the impression in their minds that we really are present, in a sense.

To keep matters interesting for both them and ourselves we can vary the methods by which we communicate. Phone calls are the most popular means, and nowadays the freedom to make long-distance calls using the Internet for a low monthly rate makes longer and more frequent conversations feasible for greater numbers of people. As with any other method of contact, we should be considerate of the custodial parent when calling – and also conscious of the children’s meal and bedtimes.

E-mail is quick, and also allows us to organize our thoughts and say what we want to, whereas it’s easy to get sidetracked in a one-on-one conversation. If there are fax machines in both homes, then even drawings and photos can be sent back and forth between parents and kids.

Sometimes nothing can replace a handwritten letter delivered by snail mail, though. Letters can feel special to children, also, because it’s not often that mail arrives addressed to them. There are many occasions, besides obvious holidays, that can provide an excuse for sending a letter: play auditions, sports team tryouts, graduations, big school projects, spelling bees, and even losing a tooth.

At least one divorced parent typically must sacrifice time that was once spent with beloved children. The children, in turn, lose something that is difficult to replace. But with good intentions, conscious effort, and consistency, non-custodial parents can still do a lot to make their children feel loved and valued – even though the distance between may be great.