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Long-distance relationships can be complicated. For two people who are not romantically involved but who are raising a child, they need to continue to make decisions to raise a child between two locations. Both people must put aside their wants and focus solely on what is in the best interest of their child.
If the two parents live near one another, they can more easily share time with their child and be present for school and extracurricular activities.
But living near one another is not the reality for all co-parents. Co-parenting from different states is one case that carries its own challenges, but what about when co-parents are living in different towns or different countries?
Co-parenting from Different Countries
Co-parenting from different countries is more common than many people realize.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 44.5 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country. And that 8.7 million Americans—not counting military personnel—live abroad. Plus, we don’t even know how many U.S. citizens have dual citizenship, according to a CNN article, but the number is likely well over 1 million.
Because of this, the reasons for parents living in different countries are quite numerous:
Parents are not always of the same nationality, and one co-parent may want to move back to their home country to be closer to family, or for employment or quality of life.
Parents with international jobs and business opportunities, transfers, and promotions.
Military personnel frequently have overseas training and deployments.
One parent may start a new relationship or marry someone who lives in another country, or someone who gets an employment opportunity in another country
Challenges of Long-Distance Parenting
Long-distance co-parenting often is unavoidable, and both parents need to prepare for challenges that may present themselves.
According to a study cited in Psychology Today, living more than one hour away from a parent often disrupts parent-child relationships.
There are many ways relationships between children and long distant parents can change:
- The time spent between parent and child is always highly scheduled, so it can feel more formal.
- There are not as many opportunities for spontaneous moments of closeness during routine, normal daily activities. Not to mention, extended travel times when parent and child are together can disrupt the child’s typical routines and activities.
- The distant parent is not usually there for school events, ot extracurricular activities.
- The parent and child will need to use technology to communicate frequently.
Long-Distance Parenting Plans
Long-distance parenting plans are going to look different than traditional co-parenting plans.
First, visitation will be more complicated. It is essential to provide regular access for the parent and child to see one another. This means that both parents will likely need to make travel arrangements and coordinate the logistics in both homes.
As a pamphlet from the Arizona courts describes in its long-distance parenting section, there are additional considerations that co-parents should include in a parenting plan in these cases:
Consider the age and maturity of the child.
Review school and work schedules to decide how often and how long visits can be.
Consider financial decisions for transportation and the cost and availability of childcare when children are visiting from out of town.
Evaluate holidays and family celebrations to divide them flexibly and cooperatively.
Custody X Change offers several examples of how parents can divide custody and visitation schedules for long-distance parenting relationships.
Contacting your lawyer to build a parenting plan that suits your needs and that are specific to your co-parenting situation is essential to your success.
Communication with Your Child
When a parent and child are not together physically, it is vital to follow a consistent, regular communication schedule. Technology is fantastic for keeping us connected, but even more important might be the strategies and tactics you use to connect with your child during your phone calls or video chats. A few suggestions include:
Avoid yes or no questions. Ask your child questions that will allow them to explain their answers and go deeper into their day.
Ask specific questions about your child. Know the names of your child’s friends, the projects they are working on in school, the names of other adults who are important in your child’s life like coaches, neighbors, and teachers. Do not ask – “How is school going?” Instead, ask, “How did your teacher like the report on French food you turned in last Tuesday?”
Keep your word. Call or write on when you say you will.
Find shared activities to keep you connected. Watch a TV show together, play online games, or even cook a meal together.
Never badmouth your co-parent or ask your child about what your co-parent is doing (or not doing) with their life.
Schedule the calls, send care packages, and make every effort to stay connected. Do not get angry at your child if they are not initiating the calls consistently. Using Accountable Calling allows you to contact your child and to have the calls recorded for future reference.
Be positive. No child wants a lecture during every conversation with their parent. There will be times you may need to address behavior or grades but try to balance that with positive comments.
Communication with Your Co-Parent
Depending on the child’s age, communication with your co-parent can be as crucial as your calls with your son or daughter.
Of course, talking to your co-parent will be necessary for making travel arrangements and planning custody. Using TalkingParents allows you to speak to your co-parent and your child through Easy and Secure Messaging and Accountable Calling. It also enables you to coordinate dates through the Shared Calendar.
TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.