Many children grow up in homes only containing one parent. Some of these families live nearby one another and can share physical custody of the kids. Other parents live far from their children, and their involvement in their kids' lives often comes in the form of long-distance parenting. Parents who parent via long-distance can still have meaningful relationships with their kids using smart virtual and co-parenting strategies.
Schedule Times to Connect
Just like a physical custodial arrangement, virtual meeting times between a parent and a child must be set up and then honored. Treat these meetings as you would a physical handoff of the kids. Children want to trust the adults in their lives. Being on time for virtual parenting sessions will help kids trust that while you can not be there in person, you are Johnny on the Spot any time you are to virtually connect with them.
Text, Text, Text
Kids growing up today are constantly connected to the outside world via their phones and devices. If your child has an iPad or a cell phone, stay in touch with them through phone calls and text messages, even when you do not have scheduled virtual visits. You can check in with them, send funny memes, shoot them an old picture of the two of you and simply remind them that you are always only a phone call away.
Make Sure Time With Kids Is Meaningful
Once you meet on Zoom GoogleMeet, FaceTime, or another virtual application, make sure that the time you spend together is quality time. It can be more awkward and uncomfortable to hang out over a screen, but it certainly can be done in an authentic manner.
- Make a list of things to talk about. If you struggle to come up with topics to discuss, jot them down in case of uncomfortable silence.
- Have virtual games on hand. There are lots of online games that you and your child can play during your time connecting online. List them and send the web addresses ahead to your child or your child's other parent prior to your virtual hangout.
- Have things to show your kids. Set aside cool things that your children might want to see such as old toys of yours, pictures from your side of the family, or new projects that you are working on.
Remind Kids That You Will See Each Other Again
You might not be able to see each other face to face now, but the time will eventually come where you will be able to embrace each other. Remind kids of any upcoming physical visits that are looming. Even if the next visit is still weeks or months away, find a means to count down the days with your child so that you both have an in-person visit to look forward to. Make a countdown chain together over your web interaction or a calendar.
Send Pictures and Physical Momentos via Mail
Keeping virtual co-parenting dates and staying in constant communication with your child is crucial. When you are not linked up or texting back and forth, make sure that you send physical reminders of your presence and love. Send written letters or cards through the mail or another delivery service such as coloring books, stuffed animals, or comics. Know your child's interests and send things to him or her that will remind your child that you totally get them. When they receive good grades or score the lead in the school play, send them flowers or something that tells them you are proud of their accomplishments.
Rules Are Rules, Even Virtually
It is far harder to lay the law down when the bulk of your parenting happens virtually. Kids need to know that should they break the rules, the parent who is not physically present will still uphold any consequences. The best way to do this is to connect with the other parent and address your little rule-breaker jointly. Make sure the child sees both of his/her parents are on the same page when it comes to rules, boundaries, and consequences.
Stay Connected to Sports and Schools
Be in the know when it comes to your child's school and sports updates. Because you live far away, you likely won't make it to all of their local soccer games, but if you know when they are going to happen, you can make sure to wish your child luck or ask them about the game afterward. Co-parents who live further away from their kids will want to have open communication with the schools as well. Make sure that you are receiving any email updates from schools and teachers as well as any paperwork or report cards. Both sets of custodial parents should always receive copies of such information.
Consider Adding an App
These days there are apps solely devoted to making co-parenting work more seamlessly. These apps help to make things like scheduling and communication easier for both parents and their dependents.
- Our Family Wizard- Parents can share all sorts of info with each other through this app. There is even an "emotional spell check" where parents can check their tone and make sure it isn't coming off too abrasive or negative.
- CoParently- This app is a one-stop-shop where co-parents can keep track of records, messages, expenses, and calendars. No lost communication with this bad boy!
- 2Houses- This is another option for parents who want to store the many emails, messages, medical and school records, and other important communication pieces all in one space. Co-parents can give it a whirl for 14 days before having to commit to the membership.
Keep Lines of Communication Open With the Other Parent
The single best thing a parent trying to virtually co-parent can do for their children is to remain civil with their other parent.
- Never let your child hear your quarrels. You and your kid's other parent will argue. Keep those conversations away from little ears.
- Support each other's decisions in parenting as best you can.
- Be on the same page with boundaries and discipline.
Focus on the Children
Keep in mind that virtual co-parenting, just like any other parenting arrangement, is not an easy feat. Expect to run into co-parenting issues and argue from time to time and disagree on important sticking points. Utilize the above-mentioned tips and remember the most important goal of parenting: to make the best possible outcome for your children.