I am in a blended family, a co-parent, and I try to be an advocate of all types of blended families. I share custody 50/50 with my ex-husband and his wife, but there are other amazing parents who share custody from across the country, and some from even across the globe. I have a friend who splits time between two places, which means only seeing his children every month, when he is in town, and when his schedule matches up with his exes schedule. They both seem to do a wonderful job making the transitions, and the routine as smooth, and seamless as possible.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Not every parent will go along with the idea of sending their child on an airplane to visit the other parent. Another reader emailed asking for advice regarding a situation regarding her step-daughter, her husband, and his ex. They were soon to move across the globe, and she would not allow any sort of visitation whatsoever.
Long distance parenting will never be easy. As the parent, you’re the role model, and the example.
Skype, FaceTime, email, scheduled phone calls, back and forth trips are just the beginning. Remember, no matter what option you choose, the children should be neutral, and able to love both parents. The more freely they are able to talk about both parents, have photographs in their rooms in both households of each parent, and able to love each side of the family, the more well-rounded the child will grow up to be.
Here are some items and other thoughts I found to help connect children to their parents:
Pillow Talk by Little Riot: It’s a bracelet that allows you and your child actually hear and feel one another’s heartbeats, as you sleep. If you have younger children who have a hard time being away from mom or dad, this would be ideal.
If your child is older, play games online with them, such as Trivia Crack. It’s a great game, because they can actually learn while they play.
Another fun idea is to take one of their toys with you every time you go, and take fun photos of their toys in different places, and text it or email it to them (if they have access). I have a friend with a hubby who travelled for work who thought of this wonderful idea.
Holiday and Seasonal Care Packages. You can send one for every holiday, including back to school. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Think homemade stuff, and dollar store. Throw in some candy, a movie, and something personal.
If You Must Miss The First Day of School. This is such a cute idea, and so easy to do. All of us want to be there for our children to take that photo on the first day. We want to meet the teacher, to see them off to class, and make sure they are off to a great start for the school year. Even if you are unable to be there for that first day, you can still ensure they know you are thinking of them. Send a first-day-of-school-package, including some of their favorite school supplies. My daughter’s stepmom actually has all of her children’s teachers sign the Dr. Seuss book, Oh The Places You Will Go, with the plan to one day gift it to them when they graduate. I wish I would have thought of this when my girls were little. You could have the other parent do this for you and hold it for you or call the school, and mail it to them.
A Movie Night Care Package! Include an age-appropriate movie, popcorn, their favorite candy, a snuggly blanket, a stuffed animal, and specific time when they can call you so you can watch the same movie at the same time.
Send them with a Reminder Jar. This jar contains hundreds of little love notes and memories, reminding them how very much you love them. Remember that time you laughed so hard milk came out of your nose?
Do a treasure hunt in each home each time they return from a trip from one of your homes. Hide little slips of paper or notes all over their room, connected to photos or objects they are familiar with, and Skype or FaceTime them about it once they get home so they can begin the hunt.
Books that Record Your Voice: Technology is a beautiful thing. You are now able to record yourself reading books for several age groups, and send it to your child. Skype or FaceTime at bedtime, and read along together when able. When unavailable, they still have your voice.
Create a Personal Treasure Box and Ship it! Pinterest has so many ideas. You can send letters, cookies, movies, books, art supplies, coloring books, stuffed animals, and treasured things from where you live. Anything that reminds your child of your corner of the world. It’s really all about connecting you and your child, and keeping that strong bond.
One of the most important things both parents can do is to make sure your child knows they are loved by each of you. Create personalized photo albums, and update them often. Keep a room for them in your home with framed photographs of the other parent, and the other stepparent (if applicable), along with their own things. It’s imperative to keep their room, not to have a guest room that they sleep in. Your child needs to know they are always a part of your world. It’s also important to keep as much of a routine and structure in both households as possible. If you can both speak to one another in a business-like manner to set a schedule in advance, and keep things as consistent as possible, your children will adjust easier.
Trish Eklund is raising her two daughters of thirteen and sixteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife. Trish is the owner and creator of Family Fusion Community, and Abandoned, Forgotten, and Decayed, a photographic adventure in the abandoned and the forgotten. Trish is also regularly featured on Huffington Post Divorce, Her View From Home, The Mighty, and Making Midlife Matter. Trish also has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz. The first book telling the story of blended family life from the perspective of the stepkids. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska. Follow on Instagram, Facebook, Facebook-Family Fusion Community, and Pinterest.