Q. My first husband and I had an amiable joint parenting agreement. The children adjusted easily to spending time in both homes. Everything changed a year ago when my second husband’s job transferred him to another state. We lost a custody battle and had to move a long distance away without my children. I am devastated. How can stay involved with my children?
A. Losing custody of children and becoming a long distance parent is an overwhelming experience for many mothers and fathers. Divorce often leaves parents hurt, depressed and angry and this is especially true if a custody battle occurs. The “losing” parent may be dealing with mixed emotions about the break up of the marriage as well as the loss of daily contact with their children. Some parents then lose touch with their children rather than make an effort to stay connected.
This is a huge mistake. Children need two parents. They need to know you both care about them. They need to know that both parents will always be involved in their life. You are to be commended for wanting to find ways to stay connected.
The issues you raise parallel the experiences of Pamela Payne, author of Building a Bridge. Her book is full of information about how to overcome the pain of separation from your children and learn to accept these changes in your life. It’s also packed with ideas about how to stay in touch with your children in spite of the geographic distance between you.
Here are just a few of her ideas about keeping in touch with your children.
· Answering Machines: Payne says leave a message even when there’s no answer. “I was driving to work, thought about you and I smiled! Thanks for the smile! I love you! Bye.” Or “The school papers you sent were great! Just thinking about you!”
· Address Books: Keep an address book with names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of your child’s other parent, extended family, friends, teachers, school, doctors, and dentists. Give your child an address book with information from both families. Encourage each child to call or write. Include in the Address book stamps and return address labels.
· Books - Make a recording of you reading a book and send it to your child along with the book.
· Calendars - Make identical calendars for you and your child. Include on the calendars the dates you will be together and family birthdays. On page a day calendars you can write notes or write “I love you!”
· Cameras - Encourage your child to take pictures of friends and activities and send copies to you. You should do the same and especially take lots of pictures of them while they’re visiting you. Give your children pictures of you for their rooms, and smaller ones to carry or to put up in their lockers at school.
· Same Time “Stuff”: Watch the same TV program or read the same magazine or book. Then you will have something interesting to talk about when you call.
Sunday is Mother’s Day. Let’s remember all the long distance Mom’s especially. No matter what your age or where you live, honor your mother this Sunday! Call her and tell her you love her. She loves you very much.
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you.” Proverbs 3:3 NIV