- Gender and Relationships
How to cope with your children living abroad
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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