A common question that long distance parents have is ‘how can I stay close to my child, when I’m long distance?’. Of course, there are a ton of ways to stay close to your kids; there are even books on ideas for long distance parents!
Part of your long distance parenting lifestyle will be to plan ahead of time for these ideas. Here is a list of a few things a long distance parent can do that can help you and your kids feel close together, even if you are far away.
Ideas for Things To Do With Your Kids, Even Long Distance
Watch TV Together
When my son is here with me, there are a bunch of shows on hulu that we like to watch together. He snuggles up to me (don’t tell him I told you that) and we get into the show together. He anticipates what shows will be on when and we don’t watch the ones we both like until we can watch them together.
Yesterday, during internet visitation, I suggested we watch one of our shows together. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I never thought of that before. We picked out a show and synchronized pushing play. After each commercial break, because commercials are kind of random and we had different commercials, we’d pause until we were both ready to push play again.
We could laugh at the same times, he could ask questions, we could comment on what was happening. It was almost… ALMOST like we were right there together again. This is one of my favorite ideas for long distance parents.
Focus on effective communication in the time you have
In the realm of ideas for long distance parents, this one is a little less concrete but maybe one of the most important. Kids are sometimes reticent to REALLY talk about stuff and as a long distance parent. That means that you might not hear about things that are important to them, at all. So when I talk to my son, I always make sure to ask him questions about his day to find out what goes on with him. I ask about school and what he did and who he played with and what he learned. He will usually tell me if he didn’t like something or had trouble with something and that gives us a jumping off place to talk about what’s going on with him.
Ask your child to show you!
As a long distance parent, we sometimes miss out on seeing things first hand. When my son learns something new, I ask him to demonstrate what he’s learned over the phone or to show me how he does it via webcam. That way, I have the opportunity to experience it with him, help him or offer praise or encouragement. It’s important to him to know I think he’s doing a great job and it’s important to me to see him doing these new things he’s learning.
Talk about YOUR day with your kids
Long distance parents sometimes hold back about talking about their own lives, generally out of a fear that their child will feel left out of it. While that can happen sometimes, talking through that generally helps. Meanwhile, if you aren’t talking about what’s going on with you at all, your child really has no idea who you are or what your life is like – which can feel very isolated.
Be sure to tell your child what happens in YOUR every day life as well as asking about theirs. Even the most seemingly minor of details often fills in the blanks resulting in a more vivid picture of each other’s lives. What interesting things happened at work? Are you watching a new show or doing a new activity? I would sometimes tell my son about a conversation I had at work, for example, and he’d be interested in knowing how it turned out and why. He would learn from my life, even if we aren’t in person.
Make something for your kids, with your kids, and send it to them
When I recently asked others for their top ideas for long distance parents, one long distance mom said she bakes cookies to send. Baking isn’t your thing? That’s ok! Make something for your kids, while you’re on a video call with them so that they can experience making it – and then get it in their hands soon after.
- buy a model of something and build it for them, or buy it, send it to them and have them build it with you!
- Have them gather their crafting stuff together, you do the same, and make cards for each other and then send them
- Teach them to knit or crochet and work on a bookmark, a scarf or something to exchange
- record yourselves singing a favorite song together and send it to them in an email, on a USB stick or a CD
Meaningful Things at the Right Time, Long Distance
Prepacked goody bags to give your kid a real time treat
There are times when you want to smother your kiddo in love. Those are times like when they are sick or when they have excelled at something in school, or did all of their chores, that as a long distance parent, can be tough to be prepared to respond to with the extra oomph it might require. Create a goody bag of things for the child to enjoy when they might just need some extra pick me up or congratulations. They don’t have to be expensive treats. A trip through the dollar store can net all sorts of great stuff for goody bags on the cheap. Pack the treat bags all into a box and send them ahead of time to your co-parent to pull out and give to the child when you ask them to. Then when something happens, ta-da – instant treat from you!
Plan a surprise delivery on a big day
Have balloons or flowers delivered to your child at school on the day of a recital or on their birthday. They will feel like the most loved kid in school for the day!
Call to say good morning or good night
It doesn’t have to be a special occasion to just be in someone’s life. Think about the people you live with. You might only see them for the briefest of moments in the morning or in the evening. Part of your family togetherness is to say good morning or goodnight and share a few moments together. Do the same from time to time with your child who lives long distance.
Leave a Voicemail
Text and email sometimes just can’t replace hearing a voice. Because you are on separate schedules, there are times, like after an event, when your schedules might not line up but you still want to tell them you love them – so leave a quick voicemail, either on their phone when you know they can’t answer it, or on your co-parent’s phone, if that is an option.
Maintain Togetherness Even While Apart
Mommy’s (or Daddy’s) T-Shirt
I have to actually give my son’s dad credit for this one. The first time my son came to stay with me, his dad sent one of his shirts for our son to snuggle. So when I sent my son back to his dad’s, one of my shirts went with him. Pheromones and smell are a strong connecting force between people! I’m sure you can think of a time when the smell of a person or place brought back memories or made you feel at home. This is a really simple way to send a piece of you with your child when they are away.
Talk about your kids at work!
Sometimes long distance parents feel a little abashed about talking about their kids because it can cause people to ask questions that they feel uncomfortable answering. Keep pictures of your kids on your desk and tell someone at work about something your child did or said recently that made you smile. This will encourage you to think about the positives as well as sharing your own positive vibes about your situation with the people surrounding you – which will, in turn, amplify your own positive outlook.
There are many things you can do with and for your child to strengthen your connection with your child long distance, even beyond what’s listed here on this page. Some ideas are : schedule time to do an activity with your child via web chat like streaming a show together or working on a project together, Focus on the quality of your communication in the time you have with them, leave or send them things that coincide with the events in their lives, and carry them into your day to day life outside of your time with them.