Many children grow up in a divorced home or have parents who were never married and are now separated, or even parents who were never in a serious relationship together. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology reports that 1 of every 2 marriages ends in divorce, leaving parents with a dilemma: how do we raise our children? Co-parenting is an important job for both parents and needs to be taken on with careful consideration for everyone involved. Parents who live a long distance from one another may need to do what is known as virtual co-parenting.
About Virtual Co-Parenting
Virtual co-parenting can help families with a great deal of distance between them or when families cannot seem to get along face to face. This type of co-parenting utilizes electronic technology to assist parents in raising their children.
Examples of virtual co-parenting can include:
- Texting the co-parent the time and place you will need to meet up for a visit
- Using a webcam to have nightly or weekly conversations with your ex and children
- Discussing your child's school progress through email
- Having video conferences to discuss behavior problems your child might be having with a therapist or other professional
Co-parenting virtually can help alleviate many of the problems that distance can place upon the relationship with parents and children, as well as with parents who need to deal with each other for the sake of children.
Co-parenting through technological mediums helps keep families connected when a great distance separates them. Co-parenting through computers and other devices is one way to keep a consistent level of communication open between parents and children. This is important for children of all ages for a variety of reasons.
Younger children may struggle with a divorce and need reassurance that none of what is going on is their fault. If daddy or mommy lives far away and is only seen every few months, younger children do not have the opportunity to create the important and close bonds parents and children should share. Virtual co-parenting, and especially virtual visitation, can help keep the relationships developing at a normal rate. Younger children thrive from talking to and seeing their parents on a regular and consistent basis. This can also help younger children deal better with the divorce.
Continue Joint Discipline
An older child might be more likely to act out behaviorally after a divorce occurs. Older children might believe they can get away with more since only one parent is present at any given time. Co-parenting virtually can help keep older children connected to both parents and allow discipline to continue to be a joint process. Older children will benefit from having both parents "present" in their lives, even if it is by way of an electronic device. This can help curb negative behaviors and make parenting an easier process for both parents.
Making Virtual Co-Parenting Work
There are many ways you can help make co-parenting from a distance a more enjoyable experience for you and your ex. Keep the following things in mind when you embark on this journey:
- Avoid having any confrontations in front of your children. They need to believe you are on the same team (as you both should be for your children).
- Set up regular times to chat or text and stay consistent. Just as a parent would be present after work or in the evening hours if he or she were home, they should also be available virtually.
- Do not replace physical contact with virtual contact. Children still need to actually visit with and see the parent that does not have primary custody.
- Keep your own emotions about your ex out of the equation. It is easy to get caught up in the virtual world and fire off a nasty email when you are upset, but those words have consequences just as much as spoken ones do.
- Communicate with your spouse to assess co-parenting. You can decide if you need more face time, such as with web chatting, or if you can add some time to the week with emails and phone calls.
Focus on the Children
Keep in mind that co-parenting, just like parenting itself, it not an easy feat. Expect to argue from time to time and disagree on important points. You have the greater challenge of dealing with childhood problems and behaviors over a great distance. Utilize the above mentioned tips and remember the most important goal of parenting: to make the best possible outcome for your children.