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; but it can take some creativity to get there. This article includes lots of ideas for long distance parents to keep the relationship fun and strong.
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.
Part of your long distance parenting lifestyle will be to plan ahead of time for these ideas. Pick out a couple you like and build them into your plan.
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. We anticipate what shows will be on and we save 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, in the way of ideas for long distance parents, I’m not sure why I never thought of that before. We picked out a show and synchronized pushing play. After each commercial break, 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.
These days (read : I’m ancient), some apps have ‘watch party’ functionality. Disney plus recently added this and there is a Chrome plugin for netflix synchronization.
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 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 or had trouble with something. That gives us a jumping off place to talk about what’s going on with him.
There are two books that come highly recommended from other long distance parents – How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk and How to talk so teens will listen and listen so teens will talk. Both books focus on how to really hone in on great communication with your kids. Another book I used, which was fun, was Q&A a Day for Kids: A Three-Year Journal.
Ask your child to show you!
As a long distance parent, we sometimes miss out on seeing things first hand. I wrote about my experience with my son’s first spelling words over webcam. When my son learns something new, or tells me about something cool he did, I ask him to show me! That way, I have the opportunity to experience it with him, and he gets my praise or encouragement. It’s important for him to know I think he’s doing a great job. These are also the things that I really, really want to be a part of.
Talk about YOUR day with your kids
Long distance parents sometimes hold back about talking about their own lives. It’s generally out of a fear that their child will feel left out of it. While a child might feel left out sometimes, talking through that generally helps. Continuously sharing about your life will also help. On the other hand, if you aren’t talking about what’s going on with you, your child really has no idea what your life is like. That can feel very separated.
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. He would be interested in knowing how it turned out and why.
When we had these conversations, he would ask questions like “Oh, is that the person who did that other thing?”. So not only was he listening and interested, he would learn from my life, even when we weren’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. Then get it into 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
Ideas for Meaningful Moments, Long Distance
Prepacked goody bags to give your kid a real time treat
This one takes a willing co-parent but is worth! There are times when you want to smother your kiddo in love. Those are times like when they are sick or when they did something great. As a long distance parent, can be tough to be prepared to respond to those things with the extra oomph it might require to celebrate or show them you care.
Create goody bags of things for your kid for 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.
Consider creating treat bags for a sick day, for a bad day at school, for an accomplishment or just because. Pack the treat bags all into a box and send them ahead of time to your co-parent. When something happens that needs a treat or a pick-me-up, ask your co-parent to pull one out. 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! Or! Have pizza and dessert delivered to them for a dinner treat!
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. But you still want to tell them you love them – so leave a quick voicemail.
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!
Although this is not one of those ideas for long distance parents that you can do with your kids, this one was powerful for me. Sometimes long distance parents feel a little abashed about talking about their kids. Generally because it can cause people to ask questions that they feel uncomfortable answering. Learning to talk about my child fostered pride, which was important in my relationship with my son.
Keep pictures of your kids on your desk. Tell someone at work about something your child did or said recently that made you smile. Encourage yourself to think about the positives and share your positivity with the people around you. In turn, it will amplify your own positive outlook. Remember, people only see what you show them. Instead of focusing on what you THINK they might think of you, focus on the great stuff. That is what they will see!