by Jontie Hays~
You have gotten your child through the separation, divorce, alternating between two homes and now their other parent is moving far away. How is this new change going to affect your child? How will parent time share work?
There are many issues to consider and adjustments to make when a parent moves far away. While the challenges faced during this transition are shared by many families, each individual in the family unit will experience the move differently.
Your child may experience feelings of rejection,fear of losing their parent, anger and sadness. There may also be a sense of loss all over again as a move brings a new kind of reality to the fact his/her parents will not be getting back together.
Younger children might exhibit some regressive behaviors ( such as bedwetting, thumb sucking, nightmares, clinginess, or begin to act out at home and school).
• Be accepting and normalize your child’s feelings.
• Help your child understand the feelings they are experiencing are not permanent and in time a “new normal” of how they spend time with the other parent will be established.
• Reassure your child they are not being rejected and every effort will be made to maintain a close connection with the other parent and ideas you have on how to do that.
The full time parent might experience their own sense of abandonment and feel overwhelmed with the idea of parenting full time without regular support from their co-parent. If the relationship has been contentious, the parent might feel relieved. Their may be resentment especially if the parent who is moving away is doing so because of another relationship. You may also feel a sense of loss for your child and worry that their bond with the other parent might suffer.
• Be accepting of your emotions; Talk to friends and family about the range of feelings you are having. Vent to friends and family so you will not be tempted to vent to your child.
• Enlist those you trust to help you by watching your child every so often so you can take time to yourself. Let your co-parent know what they can do to help contribute with care even though they are not physically present such as helping to pay for sitters or pay for a housekeeper once a month.
• Don’t interfere with parenting time: It’s more important than ever your child maintain physical contact with their other parent whenever possible.
• Are there ways the other parent can help with school? Like using Skype to help with homework or study for a test?
• Ask other parent to pay for internet service to ensure your child can talk to them via Skype.
The parent who is moving may experience anxiety at the idea of losing their connection to their child, a sense of guilt, fear of being resented by the child for moving or the full time parent facilitating anger in the child because of their negative emotions.
• First and foremost, don’t criticize the full-time parent’s parenting. Say thank you, ALOT.
• Allow your child to express their emotions and fears about the move. Ask them what worries them the most and offer a realistic plan to address their fears. Reassure your child you will maintain consistent contact even though it will not always be in person.
• For children with cell phones, text often but don’t always expect a response. Just letting them know you are thinking of them means more than you know.
• Most importantly, remember it is up to you to keep up the initiative to stay connected to your child. So make the effort. Always.
Tips for staying connected and involved:
• Plan to Skype at least once a week.
• For younger children, read them a story during your Skype session, or send a recording of you reading them a story in which they can follow along with their book.
• Ask your co-parent to put you on speaker during school conferences.
• Friend them on social media or create your own page just for the two of you.
• If you can’t attend performances, award ceremonies etc, ask that a video be made and watch it.
• Send your child roses after a performance or something in the same spirit.
• Send care packages that are age appropriate; books, special treats, gift cards, clothes etc.
• Planning ahead can be easy with school calendars: book flights a year to 6 months ahead and save on airfare.
• Most schools offer online access to class assignments, grades and test. Keep track and converse with your child about school.
• When speaking with kids, ask open ended questions such as what was the best thing that happened to you today etc.
• Let your child know what is happening in your life. Send pictures, videos and updates.
•To end this article, I would like to provide a quote from a special friend who had to face this issue. When I asked her what she thought the hardest part of her child living so far away from his dad she said:
” The hardest thing was my attitude. He’s going to take cues for how I frame it according to the primary caregivers framework; if the mother believes the dad is a deadbeat the child will feel insecure. If the mother builds the father up and says he is working hard for the family and makes their communication easy and accessible, then the child feels secure. I learned that distance has nothing to do with a child’s security reading his or her parents love”.