How to Maintain a Strong Relationship When You and Your Child are Apart
Creative avenues for small talk when you’re away from your kids.
The best conversations with your children generally happen when you least expect them. “How was your day?” after school might garner just a monosyllabic grunt. Meaningful conversations occur in the car, doing chores together, getting ready for bed or during television commercials.
Daily small talk is an important part of building and maintaining good relationships, but parents who are often away from their children due to business travel or divorce miss out on some of this routine.
“Parenting is something that really involves presence,” says Stephanie Rodriguez, assistant professor of communications at Texas A&M University, Corpus-Christi. Through her own research, Rodriguez found that parents who have little daily communication with their children feel they are missing out on important moments in their child’s life, which leads to feeling disconnected.
Luckily, there are ways to build and maintain a strong relationship when you and your child are apart.
Preschool and early elementary school-aged children enjoy parents taking part in their activities. Volunteering in their classroom, eating lunch with them at school, or attending sports practices and games are good ways to get to know their friends and increase participation in their daily lives.
“As a general rule, texting during the day might seem invasive to a child,” says Anne Dickerson, a family counselor in Charlotte. “Kids who are old enough to have phones usually are the age where they don’t want too much parental contact during their normal, daily routines.”
In other words, use texting to stay in touch without intruding.
“A short, ‘Hi, just thinking of you,’ with a few emojis is a good way to connect with your child,” says Tony Delmedico, a family counselor in Raleigh.
Keeping up with your child through her social media account(s) can be a good way to learn about the smaller details of her day.
“Following your child’s posts can give you something to reference when you do talk face-to-face or on the phone,” Rodriguez says. “However, you still want to behave in a socially-appropriate way for a parent.”
Traditional as they might be, phone calls are a great way to connect with your child, no matter what his or her age. Spark productive conversations with specific questions like, “What did you have for lunch?” or “What was your favorite part of P.E. today?” Remember, it’s OK if you don’t always have long conversations.
“Your child might be in the middle of homework or playing video games and not want to talk, but the important thing is that a phone call lets them know you’re thinking about them,” Delmedico says.
Set Aside Your Differences
Some of the burden of sharing information about what’s going on in a child’s life falls on his parents, and it helps when both work together, rather than against, each other.
“Just being respectful of your child’s relationship with the other parent is important in maintaining good communication for everyone,” Delmedico says.
Karen M. Alley is a freelance writer and editor. She is proud to be a parent in a blended family and has contributed parenting articles to various magazines, in addition to maintaining her blog, “Blending it Up.”