Long Distance Parenting: Tips on Communicating Across the Miles

Published on December 11, 2013

Parent-child relationships are challenging enough face-to-face. Even with proximity working for you, misunderstandings occur and tensions build up. How much more if you have several thousand miles between you? It's not easy to form and maintain attachments to people you don't see everyday.

Many factors cause parents to be physically absent in their homes. Some parents work jobs that require a tour of duty, like those in the military, diplomatic relations, and mission work. Some parents hold positions in auxiliary offices of multinational companies in another state or even another country. Others parents, because of divorce and remarriage, have no choice but to live away from their children. Then there are the children of migrant workers, particularly those from less developed countries seeking greener pastures.

Whatever the cause, geographical separation is an unacceptable excuse for not making your presence felt. 

The following are practical tips for parents raising families from afar.

1. Learn the Gadgets

You're in luck: technology has made long-distance communication easy, fast, and affordable. Learn how to send an sms message, write an email or talk via VOIP. In many ways, multimedia facilitates communication in ways face-to-face conversations don't. Many parents and kids find it easier to say some things over the net than face-to-face. And while teens generally shrug away hugs from adults during adolescence, text messages are subtle enough to make them feel appreciated without the embarrassment. Take advantage of this, it can make for more intimate conversations.

Be creative too; personalize your messages with pictures, videos and audios. Let your effort show in the messages you send. A child cannot help but appreciate something you’ve obviously taken extra care to do.

2. Talk About Everyday Stuff

Okay, so we know what gadget to use. But what do we talk about?

The common practice among long distance parents is to use their limited airtime to check on the practical stuff. “How is school?” ,“How are your grades?” , “Do you need anything?” Worse, they consider it as lecture time. “Make sure you do your homework everyday.” “Don’t forget to ring the plumber.” While these are important, and am sure parents mean well, these kind of conversations can get stressful if done habitually. If these are all you talk about, I can imagine your child already cringing when he hears the phone ring.

Get this; you're not wasting time if you talk about simple everyday stuff. Stupid things like “What did you have for dinner?” , “Was traffic heavy on the way home?” and “Has your tooth come out yet?” give your relationship the normalcy it needs. It makes you part of their day. Remember, you're not a marshall checking in to see if the soldiers are obedient.

3. Involve them in your life

Involvement in one another’s life works both ways. Just because you're away doesn't mean you live in a different world. Let them get to know you and what's going on in your life. A common tragedy of long distance parenting is children growing up not knowing who their parents are. 

Keep your kids in touch with what's going on with your life. You know what works? Blogs and Facebook posts. Update these social media platforms to show your children what the city around you looks like, how the local cafe makes a brew, how well (or badly) you did with your driving test. And ask them to do the same. These things keep you real, human and multidimensional. More importantly, they make you reachable.

 

If you need a counselor in Manila for help in navigating parenting issues, contact Childfam-Possibilities Psychosocial Services through(02) 4040699, +639101269540, +639272244598.  We always reply to text messages and emails within 48 hours. 


Category(s):Child Development, Parenting

Written by:

Kay Vardeleon

Karen Rose "Kay" Vardeleon, RPsy is a registered psychologist and a PAP-certified specialist in Counseling Psychology. She is a co-founder of Childfam-Possibilities Psychosocial Services in Quezon City, where she holds clinic hours.

She is passionate about work with persons with mood disorders, survivors of abuse and trauma, persons with non-chemical addictions, adult children of addicts, and individuals needing inner child work.


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