The extended period of self-isolation, lockdown and long distance communication has served to remind so many of the importance of ‘keeping in touch’. And nowhere has this been more keenly felt than in the homes of divorced families, particularly ones with children living with parents separated by distance.
If you or your ex-partner has recently moved to another city, a unique set of communication challenges emerge, particularly for the parent without sole custody. Staying involved in their life, and providing advice, support and love, can be tough for afar. But it’s your duty as a parent to find new ways to do so.
If you’re navigating this new stage in your life, We’ve teamed up with www.wiselaw.co.uk to offer these 6 IDEAL tips on how to connect with kids long distance after divorce.
CONNECT WITH EMAIL, TEXT, CALLS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Don’t limit your communications to just one channel. By using email, text, calls and social media, you can vary your communication and replicate the feeling of having small talk with your child as best you can from afar.
Harness the power of technology to vary the levels of formality with which you’re communicating. Send funny pictures (perhaps, heaven forbid, venture a few memes), ask them questions about the serious and silly things equally, and check-in just to say hello with as much devotion as you do when asking about important dates coming up such as exams. By varying your contact methods, you also let your child know that you are always available, on any platform and for any reason.
STAY TUNED IN TO THEIR PASSIONS
Children’s interests can change with the weather, as any dusty box of Peppa Pig toys and sticker albums will attest. And feeling like the out of touch parent can be pretty heartbreaking, when you’ve splashed out on a new toy only to find out that particular character or hobby was sidelined last week for something more fashionable.
Avoid this poignant event by asking about their interests and making the effort to find out more each and every day. The internet makes it easier than ever before to find out more about your child’s interests and what is keeping them busy. Understanding their passions will make it a lot easier to navigate small talk and keep the conversation going in the future. A small note; you don’t have to actively enjoy or even approve of their hobbies to be interested.
PLAN SPECIAL TRIPS AND OUTINGS
When your child is coming to stay with you, make the effort to create some new memories. Plan special trips or outings to places that are unfamiliar and new. Inviting your children on annual holidays can also be a great way to spend some extended time together and assure them that you’re still very much part of their life.
When agreeing on custody arrangements in your divorce, be sure to include an annual holiday as part of the agreement. You will still need to secure written permission from the other parent to be able to take your child out of the country, as well as tackle various bureaucratic aspects, such as a potential change of name on your child’s passport, but this will all be worth it for the quality time you’ll be spending together.
EXPLORE THEIR NEW NEIGHBOURHOOD
If your child has moved to a new place with your ex-partner, they’ll be excited to show you around. And that’s just lovely; a perfect chance to spend time together. Planning a trip to visit them in their new neighbourhood can really help your child to settle in and to enable you to feel more involved in their new life. Don’t avoid this visit because it might present awkwardness or heartache between you and your ex; put your child first, always.
ASK THEM HOW THEY WANT TO KEEP IN TOUCH
The best way to keep in touch with children long distance is to find out which platform they are most likely to use. Some children love the instantaneous nature of social media messaging, while others will prefer the regularity of a scheduled call. Find out what method works best for them and then work hard to meet their needs.
SET A SCHEDULE, BUT BE AVAILABLE
Children respond best to routine and predictability, and their lives being disrupted can be really challenging. Your child needs to know that you will be in touch regularly, so make a schedule and stick to it regarding your contact, both in person and from afar. This might mean arranging a twice weekly Skype video call to check-in, but as a minimum of course. Remember that contact doesn’t need to be totally restrictive (and prescriptive) and a little spontaneity beyond your scheduled hours and within the realms of agreed acceptability will be appreciated. Successful co-parenting relies on fixed schedules and flexibility, equally.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Your relationship will be stronger if your child has some regularity of contact, but also knows that you’re always there when they need you. Even if you’re struggling to keep in touch over long distances, modern technology should make this easier to navigate.