Long distance co-parenting
Long Distance Co-Parenting, Can It Work?
by Guest Author Krishan Smith
Accepting a long distance situation
We’re all familiar with the term long distance relationship. Many people have tried it; many would discount it as a possibility for them without even considering trying it. That’s because of all the perceived and the real issues that come along with it. It has got to suit the person trying it. It has to suit their lifestyle, their work life, their personality. Sometimes it is just necessary, if you really love someone you’ll do and try everything to make it work. Although nobody is going to claim that it is easy!
The love between a parent and child is unique, unconditional and everlasting. If circumstances mean you have to co-parent with your ex-partner in a different town or even state, you have to make it work. You want time with your child and you want your child to be as unaffected as possible by the change. You want them to have a happy, healthy existence, spending time with both parents. Some people would just tell you to move closer. This can quickly develop into an argument with your ex. Who has the most important job? Where are the best schools located? Who can relocate more easily? Similarly to long distance relationships, nobody will tell you long distance co-parenting is easy.
Usually relocation has been considered but discounted, or a recent, necessary relocation is how long distance co-parenting has become a part of the picture in the first place. This and the desire to avoid a lengthy court battle for sole custody is generally the reason people turn to long distance co-parenting as the most viable course of action. At this stage you just need to know: Can it work? How? And what obstacles am I going to face?
First, it pays to be organized with your time. If you and your ex-partner lived in the same town then a schedule miscalculation and a missed weekend with your child may not be the end of the world. If you live New York and your ex lives in L.A. then it isn’t so easy to make up this lost time with your child. Make sure you have a specific parenting plan that everyone agrees on and stick to it. A constant schedule will help create routine, familiarity and trust with your child.
Of course a rigid schedule doesn’t prohibit the possibly of alterations. During the holidays it is definitely beneficial to consider different arrangements, such as spending half the holidays or a prolonged period of time with the long distance parent. That brings us on to time sharing and custody schedules in general. Typical schedules such as every few days or alternate weekend visitations for example, simply aren’t going to work as easily long distance. You need to create something unique and manageable that can work around school and work hours.
Changing perspectives & maintaining communication
You have to accept that you can’t micromanage the relationship between your child and your ex, especially if they’re spending time together at the other side of the country. It will occur naturally and that’s okay; let it develop. You as parents need to be united on certain rules so your child doesn’t get confused by different sets of morals and principles depending where they are. However that doesn’t mean you need to know every single detail of what happens when they’re away from you. Interrogating them about it won’t help the situation.
As with anything related to relationships, communication is key. You’re bound to miss some important dates for your child so make note of these dates. Call them and ask about them; show that you haven’t forgotten. However, if you’ve promised you’ll be there, be there! You need open communication with your ex-partner as well. Make sure when your child is with you they can call or Skype and speak to the other parent. In terms of communication between you and your ex, send photos of your child, keep them updated. Utilize email, texts and other technology to keep each other informed. This will lessen stress and worry whilst reminding each other that you are both parents.
The last thing I’ll mention is related to that last point. Without communication with your ex it’s easy to resent the time they spend with your child. The parent with less time might feel left out, like they’re missing important milestones and not feel like they’re involved. The other parent may feel it is unfair how they have to do the boring stuff, the routine, the school run but yet miss out on the fun trips and holiday time. Regular communication can help reduce that feeling. If it’s a birthday and one parent can’t be present why not video call during the party? Help them feel involved even if they’re hundreds of miles away.
Long distance parenting can and does work for many people. To succeed, you have to be prepared to make allowances and be patient, organized and realistic. Most importantly work as a team and keep those lines of communication open!