This is a really touchy situation from the mailbox.
First, I would recommend finding support – either through this site or the other sites out there geared towards long distance parenting. Via these resources, start to put together a realistic idea of what you’re facing before you make your final decision. It’s a hard road to hack and not every parenting relationship is cut out to handle it.
If there is one thing I work with on a regular basis with my life coaching clients who are parents, it is to walk the walk. Kids are smart and they read more between the lines then they actually do the lines themselves.. because let’s face it… they don’t listen to a word we say.
If you’ve decided to move, you HAVE to be able to see it as a positive yourself or you are not going to be able to convince your child to see the positives. If you see it as a horrible thing, your child will pick up on that and see it as a horrible thing, no matter what comes out of your mouth or how real your fake smile seems.
So your first assignment is to make a list with three columns : the positives, negatives and remedies. For each negative, write something in the remedies column… a few things that you can make it a little better. The remedies will NOT completely solve every negative but they will go a long way towards making it better – so do make sure there is a remedy for each and every negative. Try to get past the very basic ‘more time with dad, less time with mom’ aspect.
Next up, develop your plan. Go crazy researching long distance parenting ideas… internet visitation, letter writing kits, family plan cell phones, things to do together online like neopets or club penguin, scavenger hunts that can be done in his location or online, Research and enroll in frequent flyer programs, look into skype, which offers free long distance and a really low yearly rate for a phone number and look into other long distance programs.
If you will be close enough to drive back and forth, calculate the distance and gas mileage and come up with a budget for visitation so that YOU feel empowered. Prepare to send your child pictures of your new place and of their space in your new place.
Think of all the great things that the other parent will be able to give your child that you wouldn’t be so into… like maybe football or playing with barbies? It’s REALLY hard to think about that sort of thing… but the child needs to see the positives in being with the other parent.
The other party in all of this is the other parent. Put together a plan for how you will stay involved in the child’s school, support the other parent on discipline and school issues, support the child in events or even financially. Put together a statement of intent for how you would like to see the two of you work together.
When you have all of this stuff ready, talk to the other parent first and get them on board with your plan. Show them what kind of approach you want to take and explain why it’s important for them to focus these positive things. Do your best to make sure that the other parent doesn’t feel abandoned and they will be less likely to pass that idea on to your child through their actions, moods and other non-verbal communication.
And last but not least, talk to your child. Together, if possible… if not, by yourself and show your child the fun sides and the positives and your commitment to making it work. Be honest about the down sides. DONT HIDE THEM. You’r child needs to know that s/he can talk about the bad stuff without being shoo-shooed. Shower your child with all of the reassurance you can.
If you are a total team cheerleader on behalf your child AND the other parent, YOU can make it work.