Parenting is a skill-set and long distance parenting adds a layer of complexity. Long distance parenting is easier and less stressful with the right long distance parenting tools on hand. This long distance parenting tool kit will get you started with a list of things every new long distance parent should have at the ready.
Table of contents
- Support Yourself through the Adjustment
- Build your Long Distance Parenting Plan
- Build a Habit of Staying In Touch
- Arm Yourself with Knowledge and Information
- Assemble A Mail Kit
- Prep for Virtual Visitation
- Get Ready for School
- Plan your Year and Get Organized
Support Yourself through the Adjustment
If you are new to long distance parenting or even still making the decision, it’s super important to support yourself well through that transition. Emotions are high and difficult during that period of time. You may be filled with doubt or struggling with stigma. Check out the new long distance parent triage information for ideas on how to care for yourself.
Build your Long Distance Parenting Plan
A long distance parenting plan is different in that it covers things like travel and virtual visitation, which are specific to long distance parenting arrangements. It’s best to have a court ordered parenting plan in place before you move. Here are the things to consider in your long distance parenting plan. Once you have it lined out, here is how to make it legally binding.
Build a Habit of Staying In Touch
In the pressure of day to day life, people who are not physically with you are often not what’s on your mind. Promising yourself that you will just do all the things you think you will do sounds simple! However, think of every new year resolution ever. Things come up. Things get in the way. Maintaining a long distance relationship of any kind takes a new skillset and discipline and new habits.
While perhaps one of the more ephemeral tools in the long distance parenting tool kit, habit is the most important. Think about other life goals you have worked towards. They probably took dedication and consistency. Long distance parenting will take the same dedication and consistency, over the course of eighteen years. Habit is the road there.
To form new habits, you need a cue, a new routine and a reward. In this case, your cues will be to-do tasks, and calendar events. Your routine will be a monthly appointment with yourself. The reward will be the smiles, giggles, deep talks and resulting serotonin rush of spending good times with your kids.
To begin building the habit, set a monthly appointment with yourself. Each month, at your appointment with yourself :
- Consider your relationship with your child. What’s missing? What would you like more of? What’s going well?
- Take a look through these ideas or through the ideas in this book. Brainstorm things that you think would be fun to do with your child long distance this month. Gather or purchase anything you might need ahead of time. Planning ahead will ensure that you have everything you need to do them.
- Set reminders or calendar events to remind you to do the things on your list or to prepare for them. When you’re on different schedules and don’t see each other every day, it’s easy for these things to get lost in the shuffle of day to day life. By carving out time or adding them to your list, they won’t get lost.
- Make sure to budget for these items. They don’t all have to be expensive, and often times, these activities are free! However, if it will cost money, and if you keep a budget, set that money aside in your budget ahead of time.
Arm Yourself with Knowledge and Information
Long distance parenting, like anything is a skill set. Communication with your co-parent and your child will change. You will need to learn new habits and to do things differently. Luckily, you will not have been the first long distance parent to go there.
Books, as my son wisely told me recently, are like someone condensed years of hands on experience into an easily digestible format for someone else. So you don’t need to have years of experience to have the same knowledge they got from their years of experience. Check out the books that other long distance parents have recommended (and written)!
Assemble A Mail Kit
Ah, the lost art of letter writing. There is something, though, about holding a physical letter or card in your hands, that you don’t get through an email or text message. Long distance parents need a variety of tools and letter writing is a solid one. Build a letter writing kit to keep everything you need within reach, wherever you are in your home.
Keep Shipping Supplies on Hand
Along with my letter writing kit, I keep some bubble wrap lined shipping envelopes, priority mail boxes and shipping tape on hand for times that I need to ship small things. I shop online pretty frequently so I reuse shipping boxes, when I need to send something larger.
Prep for Virtual Visitation
Virtual visitation should be part of your long distance parenting plan. Virtual visitation can be as easy as a video chat on your mobile devices. However, nothing says stale like regular 15 minute video chats where you just stare at each other and end it early. Virtual visitation is your opportunity to build and maintain your relationship with your child. Here are the very basics on virtual visitation. However, the real gold would be a book of ideas for virtual visitation, would it? Lucky for you, that exists too – so check that out!
Get Ready for School
The School district your child attends school in will need to know about your parenting plan and court order. Draft a copy of the letter to the school to inform them how to contact you and remind them of federal law. While you’re at it, buy another pack of letter sized envelopes to provide them with SASEs. Spend some time organizing yourself for the school year and putting your to-dos together to advocate for staying involved in your child’s day to day schooling.
Plan your Year and Get Organized
With all the moving parts in long distance parenting, it’s enough to drive any sane person mad. It’s a layer on top of parenting, on top of adulting. The complete guide to planning as a long distance parent includes all the things you need to plan your year. Budgets, schedules, planning ahead of time. One time a year, do everything there and your future self will thank you for taking the time.
Long distance parenting is a skill set in addition to typical parenting skills. It requires new habits and routines focused on maintaining a long distance relationship as well as some practical tools and skills, that once learned, are easy to implement – such as making sure that the school keeps you involved and keeping a stash of writing supplies on hand.
Absolutely! It’s a new parenting skill set and there is always a learning curve but there are tons of resources available on this site, in communities and books to help out. With some work, patience and the desire to continue to work on it, it is absolutely possible to be a supportive, loving role model for your child and to maintain a strong relationship.
Every situation is different. You will encounter different challenges along the way. The best overall way to be a good long distance parent is to be proactive and prepared – to plan for what you will most likely need. Bone up on knowledge and information, learn how to support yourself and your child through the transition, and plan for things before they come up.