How to Be a Great Divorced Parent from a Distance

By Jennifer Caughey

How to Be a Great Divorced Parent from a DistanceFollowing a divorce, new job opportunities, new relationships or even a need to get away from one's ex, can sometimes make long distance parenting the only solution for raising your child. If you find yourself in such a position, you are certainly not alone. In the state of Pennsylvania, we can certainly say that we live in a mobile society. It's estimated that the average North American family changes residence every five years.

As the long distance parent, you have what it takes work to maintain your relationship with your child. You might feel it's unfair that the task falls to you, as you may not have been the parent who moved in the first place. In these types of situations it would be a great benefit to consult with a family lawyer. It's easy, but never constructive to feel like a victim. Rather, take courage, because being a long distance parent doesn't automatically mean you need to stop playing a parenting role in your child's life. With a few ground rules in place and some creativity it's entirely possible to make this kind of relationship work. Here are a few important tips to help you along your way.

Take the lead in communication

Communication is the absolute key to long distant parenting. Making sure that it doesn't peter out after divorce is absolutely vital. As the parent, you'll need to initiate contact. When children see that you're making the effort, it gives them reassurance that they can reciprocate and not worry you are so far away.

  • Get to know the names of the important figures in their life. It can be a helpful idea to keep in contact with these people. This will give you a departure point for keeping up to date their interest in sports, education and other interests. More importantly, it'll make you a part of the support network they need as they grow up. This network includes neighbors, coaches, teachers, leaders and friends. Get to know the names of your child's closest friends. You may even help with your child's homework (Often, this can be viewed on line).
  • Don't take it personally when your child doesn't phone you straight back or only stays on the phone for a few minutes. This has nothing to do with you, and is quite normal among children of any age. When speaking to your child over the telephone, try to ask questions that don't offer a "yes" or "no" answer. For instance, instead of asking "How was your softball game today", ask "What was your favorite part of the game?"
  • Nowadays, it's possible to skype, email and chat over Facebook. Children also appreciate receiving snail mail that they can keep to remember their parents. This may be a package or even just a letter. On an emotional level, children appreciate something physical by which they can remember their parent. 

Keep an annual meet-up or visitation schedule

No matter how remotely you may live, it's often possible for you, the long-distance parent to visit your child according to a set schedule (a.k.a. the visitation schedule), or have them over on a yearly or biannual basis. This may not be true in your case, but it's worth considering the idea. This can allow you to understand aspects of your child's life which aren't easy to recognize through long distance communication. It also shows the child that you're willing to take time out your own busy schedule for them - something which is emotionally important to a child who has gone through divorce.

Maintain communication with the other parent

While relations with the other parent may have become strained, it's vital to keep a basic communication channels open with them, if only for the sake of keeping in contact with your child.

Legally, the other parent is usually obliged to allow communication between you and your child. Open dialogue with your child is sometimes simpler in theory than in practice. This is especially true when the law is used to deal with such situations. When the other parent feels that the law is being used against them, communication between the child and the long distance parent may become strained. 

In these situations, the divorce mediators at Main Line Family Law Centre will be helpful. These are legally trained professional who can bridge the communication gap between both parents, without the need for lawsuits or further custody battles. In this way your right to stay in contact with your child will be maintained without the need for any expensive or hostile legal interference.

Do you and your child's parent need help working through the details of your long distance parenting arrangment?

Schedule a 30-45 minute discovery session with our parenting mediator

Schedule Consultation for Parenting and Custody Mediation

Topics: Mindful Divorcing Parent