Long Distance Parenting – The Custodial Parent’s Job

When one parent is custodial and the other is the long-distance parent, the custodial parent must support the relationship between the child and the distant parent. In this, good communication is essential. When one parent is a long-distance parent, the information stream about the children trickles to almost nothing unless both adults make it a point to communicate on a regular basis. 
 This requires a special effort by the custodial parent because he or she is at the headwaters of the information stream.

When parents live in the same household, communication is relatively easy even if it is imperfect. In an intact marriage, one parent may handle more of the details of raising the kids, but one way or another the parents share necessary information like school conferences, sports details, concerts and programs. Parents who see children every day know when they are sick, if they got a haircut or fell off a bicycle. Parents know how school is going, who their friends are, what they like to do in their spare time. Even when the communication falters, proximity helps. Proximity makes information sharing easier. When parents divorce, this automatic communication about daily life changes. Sometimes it ends. If parents are hurt, angry or just not interested in communicating, the parent who lives away from the children soon slips into the darkness.

Knowing information about the child and his or her life is essential to parenting. The long-distance parent depends upon the custodial parent to provide it. The custodial parent must share information with the long-distance parent, and make it easy for them to get information from school, physicians, and coaches.

The custodial parent makes sure that the child is available for a telephone call if one is scheduled and gives all mail from the other parent to the child.

The custodial parent must help keep the other parent alive for the child – for example, with a photograph of the other parent displayed in the child’s bedroom. The custodial parent must allow the child to talk about the other parent and support plans for shared activities. Suggestions about other possibilities for joint communication are always a good idea.

The custodial parent must maintain agreements about parenting time and follow the parenting plan regimes. This includes handling travel arrangements and getting the children ready to hand over to the other parent and being enthusiastic about time with their other parent by taking all burdens off of the children when they travel for visitation.

Supporting the other parent means never bad mouthing him or her even when unhappy with something he or she has said or done.

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