How To Parent From A Far (Co-Parenting Tips)
It's that time again when parents are secretly rejoicing that school has started and the holidays are in sight. We all hope to regain some sanity from all the at-home fights between siblings and shenanigans that came with summer vacations and activities by sending them off to school. Personally, I love summer break because its one of the few times of the year that all of my children are home at the same time. For those who are new to my blog let me quickly give you the long of the short (Read my full story here).
I was married before and had a beautiful baby boy in that marriage. His father and I separated by the time he reached the ripe old age of 9 months. Yes, you read it right! Before he was even walking or talking his father and I were living in separate homes and on the road to divorce after 6 years of marriage. The divorce left me broken and devastated because never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a divorced, single mother. Before anyone goes off judging me I fought really hard to keep my family together but after praying, fasting, seeking godly counsel, and doing just about everything I could do to not become a statistic it just wasn't in the cards I was dealt to stay together. Shortly after my divorce to my son's father, the love of my life walked in it. I truly believe God redeemed me quickly because only He and a very select few people knew how hard I fought to save my marriage and to be a mother. It was like God was saying to me personally, "Chastity if you trust me I will turn your ashes to something beautiful."
"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory."
The joy of a my new found love and family was short lived because it accompanied a long, hard, expensive custody battle with my ex to retain the right to take my son with me to another state. You see, after I married Ryan and we had our first child together Ryan received a promotion which came with a big move. Sounds like the American dream right? Wrong! This is when my parenting nightmares had only just begun.
The agonizing decision my family was faced with was both bitter and sweet. The guilt and shame I felt on every side were painful and gut-wrenching at times. Me and my past decisions were now effecting the lives of two innocent bystanders, Ryan and my daughter. I admit, I wasn't the greatest mother to my daughter or celebrating wife to Ryan in this season of our lives together simply because my whole world had came down to fighting in court for my oldest son - a fight which - on the surface - I lost. In our state, the parent who is moving is at a great disadvantage, and the court ruled that my son would have to remain with his father. I was devastated. We moved, but my heart remained with my son.
It wasn't until the still small voice within myself spoke a life-changing altermatum to me saying,
"You can lay here for as long as you want focusing on what you seemingly lost or you can get up, live and rejoice over what you have left."
After months of crying myself to sleep in a brand new home and new state, I rose from a bed of depression and slowly began to live again one day at a time. I started gathering my fragmented pieces and began to build a new life for me and my family and that included Parenting From A Far. I did what God said by looking intently on not what I lost but what I had left and I purposely started to strengthen that which remained. It showed up in the form of a great husband, beautiful daughter, and a son who was just a phone call, text (young people language), plane ride, letter (old people language) and strategic plan away.
I recall finally getting out the house and recognizing the bright blue sky adorned with a brilliantly placed rainbow right outside of my house. I knew the rainbow was a sign from God reminding me of what he originally told me, "I will give you a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair."
Friend, God is telling you the same thing. I don't know what you've been through or what you are currently facing in your family, but I do know that God is in the good and hard days of parenting and He has already planned "to turn your mourning into dancing" for you and your family. You just need to show up with an open heart and recieve his instructions because he didn't make a mistake when he choose you to be a parent!
I wanted to share just a few tested and tried "Parenting From A Far" tips that have helped me cultivate my relationship with my oldest son when he is far away.
Determination over Frustration
Distance means so little when someone means so much. You must be determined to be in your child's life even when your away from them. Modern technology has opened so many doors for us to chat regularly and even to see each other through FaceTime, Skype, and many other apps. Whenever you feel frustrated by the distance, send your love to your child another way - send a card, create a hand-made gift, send a text, or simply call to say "I Love You." Whatever you do, don't let bitterness with your ex stop you from seeing or speaking to your child. Pray before making those scheduling calls and don't let anything stand in your way. Time is precious and fleeting - you will regret letting any precious moments slip away.
Quality over Quantity
Make the best of the time you have. Often we try to overcompensate for our absence from our children with gifts, gadgets, and gizmos, but what both you and your child need is each other's PRESENCE. Share in moments that create memories that will become etched in your minds when you're away from each other. Make pizza together, go to new movies, plan a special vacation. My son and I have rap battles - which I'm proud to say I win! I strive for our time together to be fun and happy, and for us to create special memories when we're together. Kids are wonderfully loving - it's the little things that they will remember the most!
Conversation over Confrontation
This is huge for co-parenting a child from a far. I'm not telling you to become your child's best friend but I am suggesting you keep the lines of communication open at all cost. Often when we parent a child from a distance we feel the need to either become their best friend or we over-exert our parental authority in the hopes to remind the child we are in charge. Both can have devastating results. When you see behaviors you don't agree with, pause and decide how best to handle it based on your child's personality. Perhaps you can start a conversation with, "Hey, I noticed that you were being a little impatient earlier. Is everything okay?" Give the child a chance to voice their concerns. They may have anxiety in the new environment or be dealing with pent up emotions that they haven't had the chance to discuss with you previously. You can then go on to correct the behavior and let the child know it's not appropriate, but also keep the door of communication open by ensuring that the child doesn't feel jumped-on or judged every time they are in your presence. That only serves to drive a wedge between you. Alternatively, don't give in to the temptation to become the most super-fun-amazing-cool parent ever. You are still a parent and you don't need to provide Pee-Wee's Playhouse every time your child shows up. Kids only need a secure and loving atmosphere that is nurturing and supportive in order to thrive and feel good about coming to.
I hope you enjoyed this post and that these tips help you co-parent with ease! Whether you have your child every weekend or every summer, the moments you spend together or precious and valuable and I pray that you get the most out of every one!
Until next time,
Chastity aka "Momma Chas"
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