With today's increasingly mobile society, it is commonplace for a parent to relocate after a divorce. Being away from your children can be emotionally challenging, even for a short time. When they are away for long periods of time, it is critical to maintain relationships and emotional connections so that your children will understand that you are still a part of their world. This article will highlight the steps long-distance parents can take to keep their children close, from the perspective of a non-custodial parent whose children live out-of-state.
Be Open and Honest
Above all else, relocating parents should be diligent in being supportive, strong role models, no matter where they live. In doing so, it is important to take time to explain your actions and your reasons behind them, even if you think your child may not understand. Children have a knack for seeing through bad intentions. If you are genuine, chances are that they will adjust to the new situation.
Know Your Rights
Relocating parents should understand parenting time and all the responsibilities set forth in the custody decree. A court order is much more than a mandate, it is also a manual for maintaining the relationship with the children, as well as the other parent. You should know when you are to have contact with the children, whether it be through phone calls, virtual visitation (through Skype or other video calling systems) or visits in person. Because problems invariably arise, you should know how your contingency plans work. Having an established plan to resolve disputes goes a long way towards maintaining relationships if you are not able to talk or visit with your children according to schedule.
Just as communication problems will invariably arise, you should not let small issues get the best of you. This is where the adage "don't sweat the small stuff" comes into play. If the other parent forgets about your time to call, there is likely a good reason for it. If a visit must be rescheduled or delayed, it should not be reason to file a motion with the court. Filing continuous and trivial motions will only prevent the court from taking you seriously when a genuine issue arises. It may anger you when the schedule is not followed - and if it is consistently not followed, that may be a genuine issue - but keeping necessary evils in perspective will help you to maintain healthy relationships with your children in the long run.
In the past, moving away meant that you would only see someone when they sent a picture or came to visit in person. Today, there are a number of ways to use video chat to see your loved ones every day. The most popular interface is Skype, which uses voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) to generate cheap long distance calling and video calls using a computer and a webcam. It also allows you to speak to anyone in the world for free if they also have a Skype connection. The software is easy to operate, and costs nothing to download. Phone calls are drastically different when you can see the person on the other side of the line. This allows parents to share more than just their voices and provides a much different experience than just talking on the phone.
Naturally, there are other video chat options, including Google Video Chat, TokBox, and IChat (for Mac users). These interfaces will change how you interact with your children.
Being away from your children will never be easy - especially in the context of relocation. Following these tips can help keep your relationship strong.