Long distance is an unnerving thing.
Only the brave and committed can make it work, but what happens when you don’t have a choice? Or when you’re two years old and mom or dad has to go away?
Today, many families make the long-distance commitment and if you’re one of the many, here are 3 tips for maintaining meaningful relationships for the child with the parent that is away.
1. Make a routine.
Before your loved one had to go away, they were a part of your everyday routine; for you, the spouse, and the children. The biggest concern for young children dealing with long distance is that they will forget their parent.
The solution? Make a daily routine that involves the departed parent and stick to it. Technology is limitless.
You can achieve live interaction via FaceTime and Skype. Include the missing parent on a video call at the same time everyday and it will seem as if they are still a part of the child’s day
If cell service is limited, capture a video beforehand. The absent parent can record themselves saying goodnight or reading a favorite bedtime story. If live interaction isn’t an option, have the child watch this video daily and they won’t be able to forget it.
2. Make it meaningful.
Despite popular belief, young children have a deep grasp of the world around them.
While the fear with long distance is that the child will believe that the parent “just left”, there are ways to explain and remind them of the true meaning.
Use an object, action, anything that you can simplify to remind the child on a daily basis why the parent is gone; be creative!
For example, if the parent is flying helicopters, show the child pictures, play with toy helicopters, and point them out in the sky.
Designate the helicopters as something that belongs to the absent parent, “daddy’s helicopter” and make it a point to talk about that item/action everyday.
Once again, the more you remind them, the less they can forget. And it will become a special reminder for you, the spouse, of why the long distance is worth it.
3. Make things together.
It’s no doubt that long distance can harbor negative feelings. Missing, worry, and emptiness are emotions that even a child can feel. Replace those negative feelings with positive ones by creating something together for the absent parent.
If you’re crafty, make a collection of drawings with your child to give to your loved one when they return. If you’re a techy, make a quirky series of videos- just create together!
The child will be proud of their work, happy to engage in a fun activity, and positively anticipate their parent’s return.
I am no stranger to long distance. From just dating, to pregnancy/childbirth apart, and now having two babies under two living without daddy, I can confidently say our family bond has not faltered. If nothing else, use this time to cuddle with your little ones a little tighter.