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Long Distance Parenting — Staying in Touch With Your Child

When one parent lives some distance from his/her children, it is important for that parent to think of creative ways to stay in regular touch with the child and maintain or gain a foundation of knowledge about the child’s interests, activities, skills, academic achievements, etc. In addition to the actual timeshare periods spent with the child and telephone calls, long distance parents should be encouraged to think outside the box for other ways to stay in touch with his/her children. The following list of ideas is provided as a starting point for you to modify or add to as appropriate to your child’s personality and age. You may find that there are other, creative ways for staying in touch that are more-effective for you are your child.

Write to your child: You do not need to write long letters. Just a simple “I love you and I am thinking about you” is enough. Send a postcard weekly. Select scenic cards from the area in which you live, scenic cards from where you visit or take business trips, humorous cards, or cards of a particular interest to your child.

Collections: Start a collection that is unique to you and your child. It can be something your child is interested in, such as Star Wars cards, stuffed animals, or baseball cards. Send something from places you visit, for special occasions, and “just because.”

Read to your child: Read a story or a book in your own voice onto a tape or CD. Read from age-appropriate literature. It is an easy way for your child to hear your voice every day. You may also want to send the stories or books so your child can read along.

Subscribe to a magazine for your child: Kids love getting mail addressed to them. There are many age-appropriate magazines that are reasonably priced and often contain activities you can discuss with your child. When the magazine arrives, your child thinks of you.

Send e-mails to your child: Many households now have computers and the kids are more computer literate than the parents! You can sent up an internet account so that you and your child can write every day, every week, or at some regular interval. It can just be “hi,” to celebrate a special event, or just to report about a normal day. It is a high-tech and easy way to stay in touch.

Video-conference via web cam: Most newer computer monitors have a built-in camera and come equipped to communicate via Skype (video conferencing software that may be down loaded from the internet and used for free.) If not, web cameras are relatively inexpensive. If you and your child both have computers with sound cards and internet access, buy two web cameras and send one to your child. You two can talk “face-to-face” via the internet.

Start a photo album or scrap album for your child: Buy an album and send pictures of you doing routine daily things as well as trips and special events. Take pictures when your child is with you and send them. When with your child, take time to update the album or scrapbook with pictures and memorabilia related to the memories you and your children are creating.

Watch TV shows “with” your child: Find a TV show that your child enjoys and “watch it together.” You may be miles apart, but you each know you are “sharing” the show. When you talk on the phone, you have something in common to discuss. It may be a great ice-breaker.

Give your child a phone card or establish a 1-800 number: You can purchase phone cards for your child that have a determined number of long-distance minutes to call you without any help. 1-800 numbers are not very expensive. This will enable your child to call you whenever he or she wants to tell you something or just hear your voice.

Communicate with your child’s teacher: Make arrangements with your child’s teacher to send copies of his or her work regularly. Provide envelopes and stamps. Most teachers are happy to oblige. Also, arrange a regular time to talk to your child’s teacher. You’ll feel much closer.

Telephone your child: This is the easiest of all forms of communication and the one that most parents solely rely on to keep in touch when they are apart from his/her child. When talking to your child, remember to talk about what he or she is interested in. Refrain from using this time to berate your child for a less than stellar report card or a behavior problem. Use this time for positive communication and praise – talk about the stories you have sent or the fun thing that you and your child recently did together. Remind them of the memories you are saving in scrapbooks or photo albums and tell them about your life. Most importantly, take every opportunity to tell your child how much you love him/her!