Parenting is a skill-set and long distance parenting adds a layer of complexity. Having the right long distance parenting tools on hand makes it easier and less stressful. This long distance parent tool kit will get you started with a list of things every new long distance parent should have at the ready.
We cover getting through the initial adjustment, and how to create your long distance parenting plan in other posts. Here, we will talk about the more practical day to day long distance parenting tools like schedules, supplies.
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 is deceptively simple. However, think of every new year resolution. 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 long distance parenting tools, habit is maybe 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, :
- Take a look through these ideas and the list you will surely collect over time, consider looking through these books – and just brainstorm things that you think would be fun to do with your child long distance this month. Planning ahead will ensure that you have everything you need to do them.
- Set reminders or calendar events to remind you to do them or 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! But if it will cost money, and if you keep a budget, set that money aside in your budget ahead of time.
Assemble A Mail Kit
My mail kit is in an accordion file. It makes it mobile, so I can sit on the sofa with it or wherever, and it’s organized, with slots for everything. I can flip it over and use the surface as my writing surface. Like a tiny portable writing desk.
A mail kit should include everything you need to send snail mail to your child. This includes stamps, cards, paper, pens, envelopes, and of course – bling.
- Pre-shop for cards, and keep a few on hand. My favorites were cards that just said ‘hi’ or ‘I love you’ with some cute pictures on them because I could draw and write a lot in them. Also consider a pack of blank cards with envelopes or stationary.
- Post cards are nice because they have pictures of cool stuff on them like a picture of the land around where you live or maybe a picture of their favorite animal. Collect postcards when you find them and stash them for later.
- Keep a good supply of forever stamps as well as just some plain envelopes. And keep some bling! Stickers, bookmarks and other small, light things can easily be sent in a card or letter. Keep some colored pens or markers in your kit as well.
Keep Shipping Supplies on Hand
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.
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.
Put Your Expense Split Spreadsheet Together
I have used the same expense split worksheet for over 10 years to track who paid what for my son. It started as my own sheet that only I used – and now all three of us, myself, my son and his dad depend upon it. Make a copy for yourself and modify it for your situation.
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.