Long Distance Parenting
Co-parenting is challenging enough when two parents live relatively close to one another. When one parent lives in a different state from the other parent, co-parenting takes on a new level of difficulty.
The purpose of co-parenting is to allow both parents to play an active and involved role in their child’s life. Co-parents work together to provide stability and support of two loving parents, even though the family no longer lives together under a shared roof. Co-parents work together to create consistent routines between homes and share in the experiences of the children’s lives, each attending extracurricular activities, helping with homework, and enforcing rules and disciplinary practices.
In a successful co-parenting relationship, there is usually a joint physical custody agreement in place, and the children spend time residing in both parent’s homes, although it may not be exactly 50-50.
When one parent lives in a different state than the children, the parenting plan suddenly looks very different. After all, a child can’t spend half of a school year in one state and half in the other. In these long-distance co-parenting situations, a child might spend the school year with one parent, and extended school breaks with the other.
For the parent who does not have the child residing with them most of the time, staying connected and involved in their child’s life becomes more difficult.
How to Stay Connected to Your Kids
Staying connected with your children when they do not live with you takes a tremendous amount of effort for both parents. You both must make an extra effort to keep your children connected across the miles. Some of the things you’ll want to think about right away to successfully co-parent from different states:
Decide in advance how to handle travel arrangements. Everyone will be traveling more often. If you are the parent who does not have the children during the school year, it is more important for you to make scheduled visits to see your children on their home turf. You can’t always expect the kids to come to you. You need to get to know their friends, visit their school, and be part of their life in the state where they live
. Your co-parent should be supportive of your involvement, and you should both make decisions and agree early on travel expenses, where you will stay when you come to visit, and where the kids will stay when you visit.
Communication with Your Kids
How will you and the kids communicate during the times they are living in another state? Establish specific days and times for video chats or phone calls, and stick to those schedules. During your time with the kids, ask specific questions that your kids cannot answer with a yes or no. Ask for the names of the friends and teachers your children spend time with. Spend time helping them with their homework during your video chats or watch a favorite TV show together. If you are not the out-of-state parent, be respectful of this time between your children and their parent and don’t interrupt. Be sure to remind the kids not to schedule activities during this special time.
Communication with Your Co-Parent
Communication becomes even more critical between co-parents when one parent lives out of state. Keeping all lines of communication open is vital to your success. A shared calendar can be one of the most helpful tools available. A shared calendar can help both parents be aware of everything going on in their child’s lives, from routine doctor’s appointments to special events and activities.
How Technology Can Help
While we sometimes lament our children’s overuse of technology, bridging the gap between states is one place in which today’s technology becomes enormously helpful. Video chat features, text messages, and the ability to play online games together are great ways to stay connected with your kids no matter where they are located.
Apps like Talking Parents give you the ability to share calendars and essential files like medical records, vaccinations, school schedules, and report cards with your child’s other parent.
With hard work and strong communication, co-parenting can work no matter where your family is located.