Co-parenting is challenging enough when both parents live nearby. When one parent moves and the co-parenting has to take place over long distances, the task becomes much more challenging for everyone.
If your co-parent moves far away and takes your kids with them, you might feel overwhelmed with grief and loneliness. Frequent visitations with your children may dwindle to one or two larger chunks of time throughout the year. You might wonder how you can be as present as you want in their lives when they’re so far away.
On the other hand, if you’re the co-parent who moved away with your children, you’re probably also feeling overwhelmed. You have a ton of new things to figure out in your new area, like schools, doctors, friends, etc. You might find yourself at odds with your kids who are resentful over the move. And without your co-parent close by, you shoulder even more of the parenting responsibility without a break.
Long-distance co-parenting is challenging on both sides, but rest assured, it can be handled harmoniously regardless of the number of miles between your home and your co-parent’s. It takes commitment, planning, and a practical co-parent app or two to raise healthy, well-adjusted kids despite distance.
A significant change like this calls for an amendment to the parenting plan. Enlist the help of your legal counsel, financial advisor, mental health professional, and your children’s teachers and school counselor to help you and your family strategize and adjust. They’ll help you adequately document and acclimate to this shift on all levels.
A “good faith effort” is a sincere intention to deal fairly with others. You and your co-parent must agree to uphold a certain business-like level of generosity towards one another for the welfare of your children. They stand to benefit most from having both parents present in their lives (assuming no abusive behaviors from either parent).
Despite your feelings about one another, neither should undermine the other’s attempts at communicating and maintaining the parent/child relationship. If the children live mostly with you, ensure you give them ample opportunities and resources to connect with your co-parent, and be respectful of their time together.
Encourage communication via phone, video calls, texts, emails, and physical mail. Avoid interrupting their time together or having your child play messenger. Consider chipping in on travel costs, such as airfare.
If you live away from your children the majority of the year, make efforts to travel to see them whenever possible. Discuss how to fairly split transportation costs with your co-parent and mediator.
When you’re no longer a daily presence in your child’s life, it’s important to do what you can to preserve your relationship. Consistent communication is key.
Luckily, we live in a time when technology makes it easy to stay connected. We can talk to one another in many ways without being physically close.
You and your children can speak face-to-face without being in the same room. Facebook has a video function on its Messenger app. The iPhone has its FaceTime app. And other apps like Zoom or Skype facilitate virtual meet-ups.
In addition to virtual chat options, did you know there are apps specifically designed with the divorced family in mind? Co-parenting communication apps help you, your co-parent, and your children amicably and easily talk to one another. Some have the ability to record live conversations or voice messages.
Divorced family apps like joint custody and child support apps help you do everything, from scheduling pick-ups and drop-offs to paying shared expenses. Others have calendar functions to create and share schedules from one household to another–set up chat times in advance (and receive reminders) instead of waiting for a convenient time.
Regular and respectful communication is vital, and co-parenting apps, from video calling apps to custody and schedule-sharing apps, promote both.
Once you’ve contacted the proper professionals, committed to good-faith efforts and respect, downloaded an app or two to help you co-parent and communicate better, and scheduled consistent communications with your children (or between your children and co-parent), you may be wondering how to keep conversations flowing. Here are some tips:
Remember that consistency is key. It may not come easily to your child initially, but with time, patience, and practice, they’ll start to open up. An adjustment period is normal and expected.
For divorced parents, coordinating schedules and keeping communication ongoing between two households is uniquely challenging despite how close or far apart you live. While visiting becomes more complex, technology makes staying connected across miles easier.
Continue to communicate with your children and facilitate communication between them and their other parent. Let them know you’re thinking about them in various ways, and allow the same opportunity for your co-parent. Use co-parenting apps to make your efforts easier.