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How to cope with your children living abroad

Updated on January 13, 2018

Coping with your children living abroad, tips and tricks to ease your pain

In this page, I'm going to share with you my own unique methods and ideas, which have helped me to cope with my children living abroad for the last 5 years, and the ways that I keep us close together with a strong and loving child and parent bond, even though we live in different countries.

We will find ways to help your relationship with your loved ones stay fresh, fun and exciting, and to make them truly understand that you are there for them. In doing so, they will know that just because you are not living in the same country you are still fully involved in their lives, upbringings, moralities, schooling and their good times and their bad times.

Image: Public Domain Licence.

peterb6001 with sons Christmas 2012
peterb6001 with sons Christmas 2012

A little about me and why I'm writing this

I have two sons, now aged 14 and 19. My first son was born in England and the second was born in Spain. I'm now living in England again, but my sons remain in Spain.

I'm English. After living happily in Spain for 12 years a relationship breakdown took place and for several reasons I had to move back to England, leaving my children behind.

I do not yet know how permanent this move will ultimately be, but after 19 years of being a devoted father, some years after the move away from my children, I would like to share how I have made this time bearable for both myself and my children.

We will cook bread together sometimes
We will cook bread together sometimes

Tip 1: Connect with all their senses. Sight, sound, touch, taste and smell

When your children live abroad

Talking on the telephone or face to face with your children through a webcam with programs such as Skype is great, but I truly believe that by enhancing other senses such as taste and smell their memories of you are enhanced.

The memories become all that much stronger and can even make you feel as though you are in the same room.

So, if you have a favourite recipe that you used to cook for them, try cooking it with them over a webcam.

Have a browse through the easy to use laptops on Amazon
Have a browse through the easy to use laptops on Amazon

A laptop with a camera for video chatting

Greatly improve how you communicate with your children

Many of the activities I include on this page can be made even more interactive with the use of a webcam.

In my mind, when you are living abroad without your children the more interactive activity you can have with them the better.

Most children are not naturally good at talking on the telephone. They tend to need more than just a voice to have a stimulating conversation. You may start to notice this when you try to chat with your kids about more than just 'what have they done'.

On a webcam, the fact that they can see your face and your environment makes it much more exciting for them and they will find it much easier to talk to you in a natural way.

Talking on the telephone is something that we all learn and get better at with age. So the first thing that I would absolutely suggest that you do is to buy them their own laptop with a camera. This should help to avoid any unnecessary stress between the person looking after your children and yourself.

Explain to this person if necessary the reason for you buying them their own laptop and that they are obviously fine to set the limits and boundaries of what the laptop can be used for.

Child safety features can easily be set.

Image: Best selling on Amazon Asus Chromebook Flip available here. I'm not the techiest so just go to Amazon and pick the most current and best-reviewed one for the price.

Triggering their memories through taste and smell

Send them your recipes of their favourite food you used to cook them

My sons used to really love my cooking. We would have ‘boy’s nights in’ together where I would cook them their favourite foods and we would watch movies together.

All three of us have very fond memories of these times.

So I now send them easy to do recipes (and some new easy custom made ones) so that they can still taste my food the way I would have made it. I will send a recipe once every one or two months.

With help from their Auntie, they will buy the necessary ingredients and follow my very detailed instructions.

Put ‘Your name + secret’ in the recipe name

The last recipe I sent them was my ‘Daddy’s secret soy sauce chicken wings recipe’ (one of their favourites).

By having ‘your name’ and ‘secret’ in the recipe name the title really does solidify the fact that this is something personal only they can do with you. If it is an old recipe it will bring back memories from the past and new recipes will create beautiful new ones.

Cook with them

Arrange a time with the person that is looking after them so that they can cook with you when somebody is available to supervise.

I will also have the ingredients ready and am connected with them on Skype, Facebook video chat or another service. We will cook together and I will annoyingly tell them what they are doing wrong and praise them for what they are doing right.

The meal will be cooked hopefully looking and tasting the same at each end of the webcam.

Eat with them

We will then sit at the dining table (all be it at two different ones) and enjoy our food and chat.

Remember, if you have 24-hour broadband Skype is free, so take advantage of it. We will each have our laptops on the dinner table.

Advantages of a laptop with a camera for long distance relationships - When your children live abroad

  • Children will find it much easier to talk freely and openly
  • You get to see each other and interact
  • Webcam packages are free, like Skype and Facebook Video Chat
  • If you have 24-hour broadband or internet you won't have to pay for phone calls anymore

Download Skype for free
Download Skype for free

Skype gives great quality video calls, is free and fast and super easy to use

Free Facebook Video Chat

To install and use Skype for free video chatting download the small program for free here:

Link to the Skype free download page.

It is super easy to use, fast, free and a great service.

To use Facebook Video Chat when you see your child is online simply click on their name to chat with them. On the top of the chat box that appears simply click the small symbol of the video camera.

You will be asked to do a one-time quick installation of the software. When you phone your child and they accept the call they will be prompted to do the same. It does it all for you and you are ready to chat.

Cooking on Facebook Video Chat

Facebook Video Chat
Facebook Video Chat

Image: My sons and I cooking on Facebook Video Chat.

A much closer connection than a telephone call

When your children live abroad

So we have now shared more than just our senses of sound. We have triggered their memories of you.

We have also ignited our taste and smell senses, which make us feel closer together and take part in that all-important parenting and child integration, to teach and learn.

We have done something fun and cooked together. We have also shared a lovely meal together.

Moon and Earth
Moon and Earth

When they feel far away from you remind them of the moon

Make the world smaller for them

Sometimes an overwhelming sadness and panic may take place about how far away you are, especially if you have no exact date set for when you are going to see them next.

One quick remedy that I use for this is to make the world smaller for them.

Instructions on how to make the world smaller

Tell them to walk over to the window and look out at the moon. Tell them that you are also looking at that same moon. Explain that although you are miles apart you can both see the same thing out of your different windows.

No telescopes or binoculars needed, just your eyes.

Explain to them that if you can both see the same thing from out of your window, you are really not that far away. It's almost as if you are both sitting on the sofa and looking up at the same light bulb on the ceiling.

The importance of long distance teaching and learning

Make sure they still learn the morals and behaviours you would like them to have

For me, one of the most important aspects of parenthood is teaching your children and passing on your knowledge. Whether this is teaching them morals and social behaviour, or teaching them new skills and helping with homework and school projects.

One of my biggest fears of living away from my children, especially with them being in a different country was not having any control over their morals, standards and behaviour.

What if they were left spending too much time with people that I disapprove of?

How could I carry on teaching them right from wrong?

A telephone conversation asking them what they had done this week would surely not suffice.

One of my methods I use to do this is by keeping an eye out on big events and news that I hope they will have heard about, even if they do not fully understand.

I will do this by concentrating on two types of events

Big events that they like, for example, football matches, famous singers.

Big world news, for example, Earthquakes and natural disasters.

So in the first instance, I will ask them if they are going to watch a certain football match. I too will watch this match. Then rather than just talking about the overall score with them I will concentrate on anything controversial that may have happened during the game, and ask them their thoughts on what happened and reflect my feelings.

Do they think it was correct for a certain player to make a foul or lose their temper? Was the crowd's reaction correct to a certain penalty? This way I can express my morals to them without just saying it was wrong, and help them to learn why I think an action was morally incorrect.

The same can be applied when looking at certain things that celebrities that they like have done. If any of these celebrities have made the news that week, you can comment on, and quiz your kids about their actions, obviously avoiding sex scandals and the like.

If a natural disaster has occurred I may ask them if they have heard about it and what they know. I will then emphasis my feelings of sorrow against the affected and hope that they will then see more than a dramatic earthquake, but also the consequences that this may create, and even ways in which people are trying to help.

Doing school work with Facebook Video Chat - When your children live abroad

homework on Facebook Video Chat
homework on Facebook Video Chat

Image: Doing school work on Facebook Video Chat.

Do not be left out of their schooling and education

Keep in contact with their teachers

It could be all too easy for their exam results to start to slip and for you to feel that it is out of your hands. Don't let this happen, and you can still be involved.

In fact, the person looking after your children will most likely be pleased by the extra support and help that you are going to give.

Helping with homework and school projects

With the aid of the webcam, I will often (actually in a routine as if I were at home) go through and help my children with their homework.

I find that this helps to make you feel that you are still doing the responsible part of being a parent and that the children will carry on seeing you as the parent figure.

Subjects like Maths homework work especially well to do together on the webcam as you can talk through and do the sums there and then.

Longer projects like essay writing can be shown to you when finished or you can help by explaining before they start. You can also help with any longer-term school projects that they may have.

Communicating with teachers

I have found that when I explained my situation to my children's teachers they were more than happy to keep me involved.

Many will have an email address that they will share with you, and you can ask them to contact you if they feel there is something that needs to be discussed and not only involve the person responsible for looking after your child.

Not to take up so much of their teachers time ask them to briefly email you and arrange a time that you can phone them to discuss the situation.

You will then feel sure that you are not just hearing one side of the story and can speak to your child and their guardian about the matter. Make follow up inquiries with the teacher when needed to see if an improvement has been made, or if an issue has been resolved.

This is also a nice way to find out another opinion about how your child is being affected by not living in the same country as you. Ask the teacher how their attitude, personality and emotions are in the school time and if any noticeable changes in their character have taken place since you have been away.

Do use use a webcam chat to keep in touch with people?

See results
Facebook photo albums
Facebook photo albums

Share your photos with each other

It's now so easy to share your photos with each other and for you both to not miss out on what you have been getting up to.

All you need is a digital camera and a Facebook account, you can upload your photos or send them in a private message, easy and so can they.

So, if they are playing a football match or going to the zoo ask somebody to take some snaps of them and they can share their photos and you can share yours.

Roxx Skullzz Game with collectibles to collect
Roxx Skullzz Game with collectibles to collect

Help them to collect something or start a hobby

Then send them small parts of their collection on a monthly basis

If you know of a hobby or interest that your child has that you could buy cheap parts for to send them on a regular basis this is really a nice treat for them. If not then why not help them to start one?

If you consider that you are not with them to treat them to an ice cream or chocolate bar on a regular basis you can easily justify helping them to start a collectable hobby instead.

You can then send them a small part of their collection on a monthly basis. They will really look forward to receiving this package because at the end of the day kids love receiving presents.

This is a great idea to make them happy. If you think like me you can't just buy them a random present every month as I don't believe in 'buying love'. I have however always enjoyed giving my children gifts and this I find is a nice way of doing so.

I also feel that like this they will not just see you as a person who buys them presents because you are actually involved in their collection and activities.

You can both keep track of what they have in their collection and what they need.

Following are some ideas of hot new collectables out at the moment.

Image: Roxx Skullzz Game with collectables to collect available here

Play free online games
Play free online games

Play free multiplayer online games with your kids

Your kids probably love playing games with you right?

Well with the internet there are many free multiplayer online games. I like to set aside a time that I will do this with my kids. This way you both have something to look forward to.

Just set the same rules as you would do if playing with them at home. A maximum time limit so that they are ready for bed at a reasonable time and you chose the types of games that you think are suitable for them to be playing.

Here are a couple of links to some free multiplayer online games to get you started,

Image: Free Online Kids Games

Free Multiplayer Online Games

Free Online Games

Free Multiplayer Kids Games

YouTube Logo
YouTube Logo

Share multimedia with your Children

Sharing multimedia and cool things that you find on the internet with your kids is a great way to keep you updated and fresh with what each other are doing in your spare time and to have things of interest to talk about.

If there is a new video clip by their favourite band on YouTube share it with them. If you have seen an amazing piece of art or a fun new game to be released, share it with them.

Not only will they enjoy it and you will have fresh stuff to talk about, they may also share it with their friends saying that you shared it with them making them feel more like you are not a thousand miles away and that you are still there for the everyday things.

If you watch a TV program or new movie that you think they will like to share this information to (not an actual file of the film) and maybe they will get a chance to watch it where they are. So although they will be watching it with somebody else they will be thanking you for the suggestion.

Well these are some of the things that I do to help to keep my children and myself happy during this tough time in our lives.

For anybody that does find themselves in this situation it will be hard and it will be sad. However, if you try some of my suggestions that I've made on this page here, with time it will seem a little easier.

I do hope that this page helps you to adjust to your situation and that you found it useful.

© 2013 Peter Badham

I'd love to hear your thoughts

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    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @Joanna14: Thank you Mutter :)

    • Joanna14 profile image

      Christine Hulme 4 years ago from SE Kent, England

      Well done for being positive about a challenging situation and thank you for sharing!

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @susan369: Thank you Susan, I would go insane if I wasn't involved in their upbringing :)

    • profile image

      susan369 4 years ago

      I'm originally from Hungary. I moved to the UK 12 years ago when I got married. I know my parents find it hard being apart, especially that my son is their only grandchild. It's great that you are so involved with your children's upbringing and education. I bet some fathers who live with their children don't do half as much, or even a fraction.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @grrbtn: That makes me happy, I hope you have fun with them on there, thank you

    • grrbtn profile image

      grrbtn 4 years ago

      I cannot even begin to imagine the pain you must feel being separated from your loved ones, but one things for sure you have certainly helped me to use a different way to stay connected with family living abroad. I had never thought about using facebook video chat. A big thank you for opening my eyes to that.

    • profile image

      samsmom7 4 years ago

      You can if you think you can! It is painful being away from your children but with all the technology we have today, you can communicate with them regularly.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @ismeedee: Thank you, it is hard but you just have to try to stay close and be there for them. Christmas is coming up soon and will have them for a month so we are all looking forward to that so much :) Hope you continue to see and be around yours

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 4 years ago

      Unique lens! I can imagine your pain of missing your children. I have a little boy who lives mostly with his Dad, but I do get to see him a lot. When I was in Tunisia for six weeks though a few years ago I missed him so much I became very depressed. It's a little different with the older two, as you get used to more separation as they get older!!

    • ForGoodPeople profile image

      Pinar Unlu 4 years ago from Mugla Turkey

      Great lens of a great dad ! I really appreciate ..

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      The internet really does bring us closer together. Most of my social visiting is done on the internet and it is how I met my first grandchild. We certainly do live in a different world today. Your oldest sure looks like you.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @flycatcherrr: Thank you, it's a lovely compliment although I feel I can always be a better parent, but try my best in my circumstances, and yes, it's the best thing that has ever happened to me being one and so proud of my boys. So pleased you enjoyed reading flycatcher x

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      Peter, I think you must be a marvellous dad, so loving and creative about letting your boys know you're there for them - even if you have to be a long-distance dad to them right now. Just reading this, it's clear what joy you find in being a parent... really lovely to read this.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @makingamark: Thank you for the compliment, I really hope it helps Dad's and Mums alike :)I love your pages and am now long distance painting with my boys :) which I know is close to your heart.

    • makingamark profile image

      Katherine Tyrrell 4 years ago from London

      This is a super lens. Really relevant to divorced dads as well as those currently living apart from their kids.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @Klaartje Loose: Sure does, homework also helps them to remember that you are there to help, are a parent and it's not all just about fun and games.

    • Klaartje Loose profile image

      Klaartje Loose 4 years ago

      Great ideas you're sharing here! My bonus child (stepson) doesn't live in the same city as we do, and my Love and his son miss each otrher very much during mom-days.

      Skyping and playing online games together helps a lot. Homework via chat is great,

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @tmclife: Yes they can be, and the parents as well, which is why it is always good to communicate and stand by them and together when these changes in life affect all.

    • tmclife profile image

      tmclife 4 years ago

      Great lens and very useful information! Kids are really very sensitive so you need to know how to put things right:) Thanks for sharing.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @favored: It does indeed, you can't give them a cuddle but you can blow them a kiss :)

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      I know of so many people who have used Skype and it has been wonderful for them, especially soldiers. It's not as good as being with them in person, but it really helps in those lonely moments.

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 4 years ago

      Great ideas for staying in touch with family abroad. I think Skype and similar programs work wonders for staying close with family and friends. Sorry to hear you had to move away from your children, but it's awesome that you are finding so many great ways to be a part of their lives.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @Gypzeerose: Thank you Bloomingrose, yes of course it is difficult for both the boys and myself. Luckily there are ways to make it easier though :)

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      God this must be hard for you. Wonderful suggestions. Pinned to my parenting board.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @Rosetta Slone: Thank you so much Pitaya :)

      I also left all of my family for Spain when I was 24 so I put my parents through the same as you, and of course as grandparents they suffer too. Still, I will never let distance come between my boys and I. Thank you for your kind comments.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I left my home country at 19 and have been living abroad ever since. I really appreciate your lens because it helps me understand how my parents must have felt at the time and probably still do. You have two gorgeous boys there and a great relationship, no matter how far apart you are. This was a joy to read. Blessed and nominated for a purple star.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @KathyMcGraw2: Thank you Kathy. Technology certainly is a huge factor in communication now and I hope that people in similar positions will implement it for it's benefits. :)

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 4 years ago from California

      I didn't live abroad from my kids until they were grown up, but I sure did miss years of my grandkids. I loved reading this and thinking how lucky your boys are with the advent of all this technology. Excellent writing, excellent tips, and an all and all great resource for parents and grandparents alike.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @WriterJanis2: Thank you WriterJanis, :)

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      I can't imagine any of my kids living abroad and not getting to see them. You have some great ideas here. No wonder you got a purple star. Congrats!

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @greenspirit: It really does work doesn't it? Thank you so much Greenspirit :)

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @anonymous: Thank you Tipi, that is really very sweet :) I'm sure that there are many people in my position who really do try and make an effort. :)

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @JohnTannahill: Thank you John :)

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @Cari Kay 11: Thank you Cari_Kay, Skype and the internet really is a great help :)

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 4 years ago from London

      I've shared that moon gazing thing with many people across distant miles. It's a really powerful device. This is a wonderful piece Peter, and I enjoyed every word of it. It well deserves it's purple star.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 4 years ago

      Being a military family, we've had to survive deployments. It was really hard on my husband being away from us for so long. Thank goodness for Skype! My son also enjoyed playing games like 'WarSheep' on ICQ with daddy.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 4 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Brilliant - congrats on Purple Star.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      What an excellent lens, Peter. You must be one the most wonderful long distance Dad in the world. Love the way you are able to interact with your children and be an active part of their education and activities.

      I'm totally in awe right now! - God bless you and your family! :)

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @anonymous: Thank you Teri :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Those are some really good ideas. It's true that distances are cut short with today's technology.

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 4 years ago from England

      @anonymous: Thank you so much AJ :) These things have helped me and my children so much so I really do hope that they will be of use to others in similar situations, whether it be that their children are living in a town 30 miles away or their best friend has moved overseas.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I don't say this very often but this is an awesome lens Peter. Being away from your kids must be so hard, but I love the way you use technology to narrow the distance and actually share realtime experiences with your boys.

      The idea of actually sitting down and eating at the same time is inspirational and I can see this page being of great help to a lot of families who are living apart.