For the first time ever, you are a parent without your child. For the first time, you feel a million miles way from them, even if you are really only a city, a state or a country away. Adjusting to being a new long distance parent is tough!
Best case, you have a great relationship with your co-parent and you’ll talk to your child soon but worst case, you don’t and you might not get to talk to them soon. Whichever your situation, or wherever you fall in between, the first few days and weeks are the hardest.
Practice Excellent Self Care
Above all else, take care of yourself. As a new long distance parent, the instinct is often to focus on doing things outside of yourself. Maybe you are moving or getting your ducks in a row to parent long distance effectively. Wherever your focus is, self care is the single most important thing you can provide for yourself and your child right now. If you aren’t ok, there is very little you can do to affect positive change.
Support Your Body
When the body tells the mind there is something to worry about, the mind believes the body. Moreover, the mind is dead in the water without the support of the body. Support your body so that it can support your mind.
- Eat a balanced diet with minimal junk food (even though it might feel really good to eat junk right now!)
- Drink plenty of water
- Stay on top of your supplements or medications
- Stay away from alcohol or other depressants
- Do something active each day. Doing something outdoors might help even more. Consider taking a walk outside every day, if even a short one
- Take deep belly breaths every few minutes or try a belly massage to help disengage fight or flight mode.
- Cry if you feel like it. Crying helps release stress hormones from your body which is what makes a good cry make it feel so much better.
Support Your Mind
Once your physical needs are in hand, turn your focus to mental and emotional well-being.
- If you are the meditating type, don’t skimp out now. Spend a few minutes a day in silent, inward contemplation.
- Try journaling or writing a letter (that you won’t send) to get your thoughts off of repeat and get out of your head.
- Do one thing every day that just makes you feel good – that makes you laugh or feel peaceful. Maybe it only lasts for a few minutes and that’s ok.
- Go to work and do your work well. Sometimes focusing on the relative predictability and accomplishment of work can give a gratifying sense of progress.
Focus on Things that are Not Worries
I know that as a new long distance parent, it can feel very urgent that you spend time thinking through ‘what-ifs’. It’s your kid, who you are hard wired to protect and care for. There is a big empty space and they might need you.
However, that sense of urgency is misplaced, in this instance. You are at a distance from your child so the sense of urgency will not result in any immediate action and instead, your worry is pumping stress hormones into your blood stream, wiring you up, degrading your emotional state.
To solve this, find productive things to turn your mind to. Here are some options :
- Try focusing on the positives in your situation like your next visit with your child or the good things that might come from the decisions that have been made. No matter how small the positives are, positive thinking can help make the entire picture feel brighter and lighter.
- Consider using the extra energy to prep to do some of these things for or with your kiddo. Maybe put together your long distance parent tool kit, if you haven’t already.
- Think about the future. The future is something you can affect change upon. Put some thought into how you will move forward. What are your goals for your relationship with your child and their other parent? Are there any things that you need to prepare for in the way of court or travel? What’s the next event and what can you do to line yourself and your child up for success?
Long distance parenting is hard! It’s a lot of effort, a lot of money, a lot of complexity – and not socially accepted, in many cases. It can be daunting to go it alone, feeling like no one around you understands, so finding other long distance parents is super important!
Look for Support Close to Home
You might be surprised to find long distance parents in your own social circle who just don’t talk about it, because of the aforementioned stigma. Go through your own address book, and facebook friends list and consider whether any of the people you know might live apart from their kids. You might not have noticed before because ldps often downplay it.
Although some in your social and family circles will not know how to support you, you will find that many will support you if they know how. Matthew posted about his (very supportive) partner and said:
And you’re always there to give me a big hug, reassure me that we’ll see her again soon and that she still thinks of me and misses me during the time we don’t have her (even if she doesn’t want to talk on the phone). You help me through the tough times and provide me with much needed perspective and guidance.
Sometimes, that’s all you need from your people – a hug and some reassurance.
Find Online Support
Here on the site, many long distance parents have posted about their own personal experiences. In turn, hundreds of long distance parents have responded to offer advice, support, or their own experiences. Outside of this site, there is a great, active and moderated, long distance parenting support group on facebook.
Support can come in the form of other long distance parents via this website or some of the places and groups. Check the Long Distance Parent Tool Kit for some ideas on finding support. Support might also come via a therapist, if you are depressed or could benefit from the help of a professional or from family and friends, if they are supportive of your situation. Do not spend time discussing your situation with people who do not understand or who are critical of your decisions for the time being. There is a time and a place for listening to and assessing opposing viewpoints but while you’re hurting is not it.
How to cope with living away from your child
- Practice Excellent Self Care
Make sure you are focusing on your physical and mental health needs.
- Focus on things that are not worries
Change your mind to focus on other things. Consider focusing on activities that strengthen your connection with your kids.
- Find support
Identify the people in your own family and social circles who are supportive of your decision and seek out community and support from other long distance parents.