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Triage for the New Long Distance Parent

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  • Post last modified:January 5, 2022

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?

Find Support

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

  1. Practice Excellent Self Care

    Make sure you are focusing on your physical and mental health needs.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Kara

    Thank you, this is exactly what I need to read right now. My heart is so heavy.

  2. Marie

    Thank you. I made it through today! I even ate. That’s worth something. The pain is excruciating but, if I can see through to tomorrow, working on these points will give me purpose again.

  3. Dea Anderson

    I understand your grief completely. I don’t believe I have ever, EVER felt such gut wrenching, writhing pain as this one. I will think of you.

  4. Mark Harris


    I have never felt so down in all my life. I have felt such grief at losing my family it’s like a deep pain. Reading this article has helped. I live in the UK and my separated wife and children live in Adelaide South Australia…’s bloody awful. I miss my babies so much they are 5 and 3 year old boys……we’ve had so much fun in the 5 years we’ve been together.

    Thank you.

  5. Jeremy

    Thank You.
    I’m 3 weeks into being a long distance parent, and can’t see an end in sight of all my “am I making the right decision,” and, “I’m being a terrible father for being so far away,” thoughts. This won’t be the last time I read through this article!

  6. Melissa

    I am 3 months into being a long distance parent, and I am having my first visit with my kids. I’m trying to be positive and live in the moment, but I just keep thinking about how empty everything is going to seem again once they leave at the end of this week. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to make it through this…

    1. JF

      I am 3 months into this and I feel like the worst mother ever. I miss my son so much that it feels like every day is hell. I don’t know if I can do this much longer.

  7. Claire

    Hi, I’m almost 4 weeks into being a long distance parent.

    I’m struggling to be honest. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

    A little back story. My husband (not my eldest son’s dad) secured a really great job in Texas. We are from the UK. This was an opportunity that couldn’t be turned down, but my eldest didn’t want to come and as his parent gave him the option of coming with us or remaining with his father and my mother in the UK. He chose to stay.

    We had so many adult conversations and he still wanted to stay. I always told him that no-one other than himself can make him happy. So he needed to decide what he wanted and not think of anyone else.

    Plus his father wouldn’t give his approval of him coming over unless my son was adamant he wanted to come with us.

    He is 12.

    I just can’t cope with the fact that, no matter if it was his choice he will still feel abandoned by me. I speak to him most days on skype and I always reassure him that if he wants to be here he only has to say. I am there financially for him also but that doesn’t make up for the emotional connection we have. A cuddle solves everything and now I’m not there for that.

    I never once chose my husband or youngest son over him but i wonder if that’s how it may feel. What I did choose was to go in search of a better life and that included him but as you have read I couldn’t force that on him as he would resent me all the same.

    I just don’t know what is the right or wrong way!

    Help 🙁

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