Co-parenting can be a struggle for many couples, even if they live around the corner from each other. So what happens when you and your ex live hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away from each other?
While it’s an invaluable opportunity for a child to be able to continue to have a strong relationship with both of their parents, the need for two ex partners to regularly communicate with each other in this way is often not an easy thing for either party.
So in the instance that you or your ex has to move a considerable distance away, this is really going to throw a new curveball into your established co-parenting routine. But, as it was with the early stages of setting up a co-parenting schedule that you’ve already gone through, it is certainly possible to make a success of this.
With all of these things in mind, in this article we’ve put together a list of long-distance co-parenting advice, that will help you to navigate this distance in the best possible way.
When it comes to maintaining that regular, routine and personal presence in your child’s life, technology is the gift that keeps on giving.
Even in the moments where long-distance co-parenting is at its most frustrating, one thing that you can be eternally grateful for is the fact that you’re not going through this 30 years ago. Now that we have technology on our side, the world has been made considerably smaller, and we can continue to navigate these immense distances to maintain happy and healthy relationships with our loved ones.
While it’s hard that you won’t be able to do little things like sit down with your child for dinner every day, while you wait for the opportunity to do those things again (and they will come around sooner than you think!) bridge that gap by continuing to be a part of their lives every single day.
These little bits of involvement can include a combination of regular texts, Skype or FaceTime calls (this could be for a face-to-face conversation, enable you to be a part of a game they are playing, or give you a role in a key part of their daily routine, like telling them a bedtime story), quick chit chats over the phone, play games together (through different smartphone apps) or sharing a snapshot of what you’re up to that day.
You can also use technology to establish clear, regular communication with your ex (we will cover this in more detail later) and keep up to date with what is happening in your child’s life by, for example, being on the email list for their school or extra curricular activities.
This way, when you do see each other again, you’ll be delighted to find that nothing has changed in your relationship and you can simply start back up where you left off.
Make sure that, regardless of the fact that you’re no longer in the same house, your child can always depend on you.
In my experience, when it comes to calls, the spontaneous ones are always the best. So make sure that your child feels like they can call you whenever they need (whether it be because they have a problem, or even just because they’re bored on their walk home) and know that you’ll make time for a chat.
Even if it’s just five minutes. Especially if it’s just five minutes – these little, regular chats are exactly what will help you and your child feel connected with each other.
Alongside this, you should also work with your child to establish a regular schedule of calls, so that they can expect when they’ll (and look forward to) hear from you. This is another key way to help the distance between you feel smaller and ensure that you are staying present in your child’s life.
Part of this dependability also involves making sure that the plans you make are reliable, well-organised and set in stone. Ensure that all of the details (everything from schedules to expenses) are covered, and the dates themselves are set way in advance. By doing this, you are acting to reassure your child, as they always know exactly what to expect from you. Make sure last-minute changes are avoided at all costs.
This also comes with working well alongside your ex, to make your co-parenting plan one that is strong yet flexible. The best way to do this is by building up a trust in each other, so that you are both confident in the fact that the other will always fulfill their end of the bargain.
As we mentioned earlier, cooperation between you both is absolutely essential. Just because you aren’t co-parenting in the conventional way, this doesn’t mean that communication between you both is no longer necessary. In fact, quite the opposite!
The knowledge of the fact that your ex has the overwhelming majority of your child’s time is bound to get to you. But try not to let that show – instead of feeling like you’re being butted out of any decision-making concerning your child, get involved in what’s going on and show an active interest in these details, even if it’s just for smaller things. If you’re the residential parent, make an active effort to keep the other parent informed, a little text message will go a long way.
Be intuitive to how your child might be feeling – keep an eye out for any potential feelings of withdrawal or alienation from them, and work to resolve the matter promptly. While this proactivity will probably take a bit of practice, recognising those signs and navigating the distance to help your child work through their feelings will soon become natural to you.
Another important thing to remember is that co-parenting is an evolving process, and the techniques that you employ will inevitably change as they get older. So be creative with the way that you co-parent via long-distance – whether it’s video texts, letter writing, or thoughtfully sending fun impromptu gifts their way (a box of brownies is a sure way to make everyone’s day).
When it comes to holidays, this intuition will also be key. Make sure that your child feels comfortable with the plans. It might be hard to admit to yourself that your teenager doesn’t want to spend a full two months staying with you, but showing flexibility at your end to best suit their needs will be greatly appreciated.
If you find that you are the parent who does not get to spend the bulk of the time with their child, the actual logistics behind the way that you parent will have to change somewhat, but in its nature, the principles will stay pretty much the same.
The key thing is that you pay close attention to your child’s emotional needs. Do this by supporting them, being flexible and providing options that can be restructured to best suit your child, plan and prepare things in advance so that you remain as dependable a parent as you were in person, and be creative in the ways that you continue to be a massive part of your child’s life.
While it will never be the perfect solution, don’t be disheartened – you can still be a wonderful, loving, dependable and present parent, no matter the distance.
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