Overcoming the Challenges of Long Distance Parenting Plans
Long distance parenting when you are divorced is full of challenges that affect your relationship with our children, no matter how good your intentions are. While living a considerable distance from your children doesn’t decrease your feelings for them in any way, it does impact how you communicate with them and changes the ways you influence them.
Long Distance Parenting Plans
A long distance parenting plan is a legal document that specifies how you and the other parent will raise your children while living far apart. It clarifies all the parenting points you agree on and establishes the expectations you both have for each other and for your children.
The long distance parenting plan is designed to provide a set of guidelines for your interactions with the other parent and your children. It can also reduce conflict over the most common issues that arise between divorced parents. Your children’s best interests include having two parents who are involved in their lives on a regular basis, even if one of you lives far away. A long distance parenting plan can help you ensure that will happen.
Many parents turn to custody software such as Custody X Change to create workable parenting plans that cover all the aspects of long distance parenting. The software provides templates that can be customized to fit your family's unique circumstances. It even helps you create long distance custody schedules to work out fair visitation times with the children.
Impact of Long Distance Parenting
There are many reasons why you may be located far away from your children. Among the more common scenarios are that you or the other parent had to move for work-related reasons, to be closer to extended family or to pursue or continue higher education. Regardless of why you are far from your children, your relationship with them will undergo some changes.
Some of the challenges your children might experience are:
- Fewer face-to-face interactions with you
- Fewer spontaneous moments in favor of scheduled time together
- Less input from you on different situations in their life
- Reduced opportunities for you to attend functions, such as games or recitals
- Reduced contact with your extended family
- Increased feelings of guilt, blame or abandonment
Overcoming the Hurdles
Here are 5 ways you can minimize the impact that distance has on your relationship with your children.
- Regular contact. Children feel loved when they have frequent and meaningful contact with both parents. When you don’t have the luxury of stopping by for a weekly outing or seeing your children every other weekend, you must establish contact in other ways. Ideas include a nightly phone call or internet video session, letters and packages in the mail and as many visitations as you can afford. When your children know when they will see you or hear from you next, it minimizes the pain of separation, especially for younger children with an underdeveloped sense of time.
- Be interesting and interested. When you communicate with your children, ask specific questions about their day. Remember the details they share with you and bring them up in conversation. If your child tells you about a big spelling test, ask how he or she did on the test, for example. As far as your end, keep a running list of interesting ideas or observations that you want to share with your kids. When you get to talk to them, you can use the list to jump start conversations. Really focus on their needs, wants, worries and successes to ensure healthy communication.
- Communicate without words. Let your children know that you love and miss them by interacting in ways that go beyond a phone call. Send small items in the mail, such as stickers or postcards for younger children, and restaurant gift cards for older children. Record yourself reading bedtime stories, send photos of yourself and play a two-person online game together. There are many ways you can be present in your child’s thoughts beyond speaking.
- Spend quality time alone. Your children don’t have many opportunities to spend time with you so do everything you can to make the visit personal and pleasant. You can take time off of work, plan special events and start new traditions with your children. Be aware that your children don’t need fancy vacations or expensive presents—they just need quality time with you to strengthen the relationship.
- Be positive. Even if you feel like complaining about the other parent, giving a lecture to your children or losing your temper over something, don’t do it when your children are around. Because your time for visits is so limited, keep it positive and uplifting. That doesn’t mean you should not set boundaries, discipline when needed or be a pushover. It just means that you are creating a loving and stable atmosphere where your children feel loved, safe and at home.