Long Distance Parenting: Ways to Stay Connected With Your Kid
Raising a family is challenging, no matter the circumstances. All children are unique and have their own specific needs. As parents, we want to provide a great life, lots of love and a nurturing environment for them while still accomplishing goals and moving forward in our careers. This can be especially challenging when one or both of the parents are working at a distance for extended periods of time.
This can be military families, healthcare workers or parents with odd work schedules or shift work. Children can have a difficult time with these situations and it takes being proactive to make sure that you nurture these precious relationships. This way, your children can understand the situation (as much as they can) and still feel loved and appreciated while you are away.
While the term separation anxiety may have parents in a state of concern, it is a normal stage of development for children. Separation anxiety is when children feel an excessive amount of concern about their parents being away. Most children grow out of separation anxiety as they reach the age of three but it can persist later, particularly if a parent is away for long stretches of time. If your work schedule takes you away from your family, there are tips and techniques that you can use to help your children work through their separation anxiety.
How to Comfort a Child that Misses a Parent
For a child, missing your parents is normal. Whether they miss their father and his hugs or their mother and their special mommy/daughter or mommy/son activities, comforting a child that misses their parent is going to be a skill you develop. Thankfully, there is a long line of parents that have gone before you and have developed tactics to help comfort a child that wants to be near to one of their parents.
Stay Connected Online
Thank goodness for the internet! There are more and more ways of staying connected to your children, regardless of the distance between you. Where you once had to write a letter that may take weeks to reach them, you can now speak to and see your children in real-time as long as you have access to the internet or a phone line.
- Facetime or VideoChat
As any parent or grandparent who grew up without the ability to video chat can tell you, this is a priceless gift. Use it to your advantage! Make time to video chat as much as possible and if it is an option, making a routine out of calling creates a schedule that your kids can become accustomed to (and be excited about).
- Memes and Pictures
For older kids that can read or understand jokes and humor, memes and pictures are a great way to connect with your kids over the internet.
- Emails and Voicemails
As a parent, you can draw pictures and send them to your kids via email, as well as write them letters or nighttime stories that your spouse can read to them. Voicemails are another great way for your kids to be able to hear your voice and remember you.
Record Your Voice
- Recordable Books
Cali’s Books has an amazing product that gives parents a unique way of becoming a part of their daily routines. Recordable books allow you to record your voice, for up to 45 seconds on each page and for up to 15 pages. How does this help your child?
- You can walk them through their morning routines including brushing their teeth, making their bed and getting dressed.
- Be involved in their day by talking about eating lunch, taking naps and playing games.
- Record a bedtime story and be the one to help put them to sleep at night, even if you are halfway across the globe.
Talk About What the Other Parent is Doing
Children need to understand that the absent parent is gone for a reason and not simply missing. You can do that by explaining that the other parent is working and is providing for their family by helping people while they are away.
- If the missing parent is working in a service role, explain that they are helping people. You can discuss what type of job they are doing and why they need to be away from the house to do it.
- Another way to help your kids understand is to explain what you can do as a family because the missing parent is providing for their needs and wants, such as taking trips, food and clothing.
- Make sure to explain that they are off doing something productive, not simply away from the house.
Encourage Creativity and Make Books and Crafts for the Missing Parent
Kids love to turn their energy into fun and productive activities. Making crafts, gifts and books for returning parents gives kids a creative outlet as well as gives them an exciting project to give the returning parent when they arrive home. What kind of crafts or projects?
- Recordable Books from Cali’s Books are great for kids to record messages and stories for their parents. They can give them as gifts when they return home and the parent will have a special keepsake to take with them on their next trip or shift. They also have special discounts for healthcare workers and military members!
- Draw pictures and make paper mache figurines. Pictures and artwork are often compact and can easily be taken with a parent on their next shift or trip and gives kids a sense of purpose and direction for their art.
Promote Positive Thinking
As kids miss their parents, promoting positive thinking is a great way to get them to see the bright side of things. Remember, this won’t always work because sometimes kids are sad or upset and need to express those feelings. However, there are good tools that can help them cope when they are missing their parents. How can they do this?
- Focus on the great memories that you already have with the missing parent. Think of memorable moments and relive them through pictures and stories.
- Talk about the exciting things that you will do when the parent returns. Excitement can go a long way to replacing sadness and worry.
- Remember the reasons that the parent is gone. This is particularly useful for parents who serve in the military or healthcare field because their work saves lives.
Make Plans for the Parents Return
Making the return of the parent a big event helps give kids a productive way to channel their feelings. While they may not have a very accurate sense of time, they know if their parents have been gone for a long stretch. They also know when their return is coming near and creating a big event out of that return is a fun activity that helps them cope with their feelings. How can you make it a big event?
- Have a celebratory return dinner!
- Set up decorations and invite friends or family over.
- Have a special private family event for only the immediate family and you go do some special activity or experience.
Be Patient with the Child
Even as adults we have a hard time dealing with feelings of missing loved ones. Being equipped with all the techniques and tools to help your child doesn’t mean that they won’t ever feel sad or miss their parents. Patience is required when helping children through separation anxiety. How can you help your kids through this?
- Understand that very young children don’t have the capacity to grasp abstract concepts such as time away and explaining doesn’t always lead to them feeling better.
- Sometimes you need to let your child feel sad.
- Be with them and hold them.
- Explain that you miss the missing parent too.
Seek Professional Help
Not all situations can be handled alone. There is no shame in reaching out to a therapist or counselor when it comes to your children. Not all people may need to seek professional help but it is always an option if the other tools and techniques do not help your children deal with missing their parents.
Stay Connected with Your Kids
Sometimes the best cure for separation anxiety is lots of hugs or a conversation on the phone. Other times it may be creating artwork for the returning parent. Regardless of the solution, it takes understanding, patience and creativity on your part as a parent to help your children when they are missing their other parent. Remember to love your kids and give them the tools to continue to be happy and stay connected with a parent if they are away for a period of time. Both parents and kids will be more fulfilled and content because of it!
Hi! I'm Cali, Founder of Cali's Books
“I’ve loved books since childhood and wanted to transmit this enthusiasm to my children”
I'm a mom of two young children who trained as an engineer and worked in investment banking and at Disney. A French of Caribbean origin (Martinique to be precise!), I grew up in Paris. Los Angeles is now the place I call home!
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