October 2005 - Relocation
If you or your ex are relocating, you know it is going to
be hard for your child to stay close to the non-residential parent. However,
as the residential parent, there are many things you can do to encourage them
to interact and many ways to provide support during this difficult adjustment.
Plan It Out
The most important thing you need to do, when your child is no longer going
to be living near the other parent, is to sit down and have a detailed talk
together as parents about how youíre going to make this work. If youíre the
one moving, you may have had to get court permission and a court-approved plan
for visitation, but even so, there are details that need to be worked out. Itís
essential that, as the residential parent, you make it clear to the other parent
that you want his or her relationship with the child to thrive, despite the
distance. You need to emphasize that you want to support their relationship.
Spell It Out
Once you and the other parent have a plan, share it with your child. Your goal
is to reassure him or her that the long distance parent is still going to have
an parenting important role. For younger children, it can help to use to a calendar
to show when they will go visit the other parent. Color this area of the calendar
in or use stickers to make it stand out. Share all the details of the different
ways child and parent will be able to stay in touch in between visits.
Talk about who is going to pay for long distance calls and if there is a plan
you can both get on that will make it cheaper. Consider cell phone plans where
long distance is not a different price and using the same plan so calls will
be free if you call each other. Also discuss travel expenses. If your child
will be traveling to visit the other parent, who is going to do the driving,
or who is going to pay the airfare? Arguments over these costs are the most
common stumbling blocks to long distance visitation and if you can negotiate
them now, youíll save yourselves, and your child, a lot of heartache later.
Many parents share these costs, but if there is a large financial disparity
between your incomes it may make sense for the wealthier parent to pick up the
Become Tech Savvy
Chances are, if you have a teen, he or she is already a whiz with things like
instant messenger and text messaging. You and your ex might not be though, and
if you have a younger child, he or she may just be beginning to explore the
wonders of cyberspace. Choose an instant message program that you and your ex
(and your child) will use. Follow the online tutorial, practicing how to use
it. Instant messaging is a really great way for kids and parents to stay in
touch and have real, up to the minute interaction with each other.
You can also purchase an inexpensive digital camera for
your child so that he or she can frequently email photos to the other parent.
Non-residential parents often feel out of the loop even when theyíre living
in the same town with their children, and it can be worse if they are across
the country from their child. As the residential parent, make a point to share
things that are happening in your childís life with the other parent. Instead
of throwing out homework papers that come home, stuff them all in an envelope
and mail them every week or fax the really good ones over to the other parent.
Send along the school or classroom newsletter. Email photos you take of your
child and consider videotaping dance recitals, plays, or important games.
Donít hesitate to pick up the phone, or encourage your child to do so, to ask
the other parent for suggestions for school projects, sympathy over a sprained
ankle, or help with a friendship problem. Remember that a lot of the time our
work as parents happens when our children reach out to us with a problem. The
other parent wonít have the opportunity in those moments unless you encourage
your child to reach out.