By Waturi Nguyo
You must have heard about long distance relationships and maybe even been in one, but have you ever been a long-distance parent? A long-distance parent is any parent that does not reside in the same area as their child even though they wish to actively participate in their child’s upbringing.
It is important to mention that deadbeat parents and parents who abandoned their children are not long-distance parents.
Various factors such as work, divorce, and most recently, the cessation of movement following the Covid-19 pandemic, necessitate long-distance parenting. Parenting in a normal set-up is hard, physical distance only makes it harder. Fortunately, with a little determination and a few tips, you can become as good a parent as you would have been living with your child.
Keep communication alive
Gone are the days when communication was limited to letters and terribly vague telegrams. Technology has enabled real time communication over long distances. Therefore, try to keep in contact with your children through the means available to you. These could be social media, phone calls, and video-conferencing among others, depending on their age.
Photo: Family- LoveToKnow
Visit when you can and make the most of visits
Let’s face it, technology cannot replace human contact. Therefore, visit your children as much as your situation allows or better yet make arrangements for them to visit you. During visits, carry a gift for the children and make sure you create memories together. Moreover, visits should be focused on the children. Therefore, do not bring work to a visit. Simply spend quality time with your children.
Though consistency is important, doing the same thing over and over can become boring for children. Therefore, add some spice into your parenting arrangement. For instance, you can call outside the normal time. You can also play some remote games with your children. Another creative strategy would be to record yourself reading your child’s favorite bed time story and have it played to them before they go to bed.
Have a parenting plan
Parenting plans are especially important for divorced or separated parents who are co-parenting. A parenting plan specifies the relationship between the divorced parents and the children and includes such things as custody and visitation arrangements. The parenting plan can be prepared with the help of a legal professional.
Have a structure
A structure is important as it helps children cope with the absence of parents from their lives. Moreover, a structure gives children the idea that they are still connected to the absent parent. For example, having a scheduled call time gives children something to anticipate and look forward to.
Stay involved in your child’s life
Being away from your child is not an excuse to suddenly be ignorant of what’s going on in their lives. Working with your spouse or the guardian that stays with the children can help you get information about the daily happenings in your children’s lives. Staying updated not only gives you a chance to weigh in on important decisions but it gives you topics to discuss when you finally talk to, or visit your children.
Another way to stay involved is to do activities that you did with your children before moving away. For example, you can utilize video calls to help your children with their homework. Whatever you do, ensure that you are updated of your children’s’ progress and that your absence is not so loud in their lives.
Stay in constant communication with the other parent
The involvement of the other parent is of utmost necessity as you still have to make important parenting decisions together. Moreover, involving the other parent can make work easier for you when you want to connect with the kids. For instance, they can have the children call you even outside the usual routine and keep you updated on the children’s progress. The other parent is also instrumental in the event that the children want to visit you.
Long distance parenting is fast becoming a reality for most people especially with containment measures due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, being physically separated from your kids does not have to be a death sentence for your parent-child relationship. The first step in a successful long distance parenting journey is to be willing to fight for your place as a parent, the next is to take action by utilizing the tips discussed in this article. Though a long-distance parenting plan does not match being there with your child, it is, certainly, better than nothing.
Featured image: Good men project
Writer Beryl Wanga Itindi graces the April 2021 issue of Parents