One thing you’ll find not being around your children all the time, is that communication with them can become more difficult and more stilted. That can become worrying, since you want to stay close to your kids, to know what’s going on in their daily lives, and what they’re thinking and feeling. The ability to keep in touch can be a big factor.
But there are ways to make sure that growing apart doesn’t happen, at least if your children are old enough. Your physical contact might be limited, so you only spend a relatively small amount of time with them, but don’t let that discourage you. There are other methods.
For most kids over the age of eight, computers are a completely normal part of life nowadays. They’re also an excellent way for you to communicate with your children. Many kids have e-mail addresses through school, and there are plenty of web-based free mail services.
If your kids have a computer at home, when they’re visiting you, set up an e-mail account for them, and also an Instant Messaging account with a relatively safe service like MSN (both are free, but you should check with your former partner first). Show them how to use it. This makes for a great way to keep in touch. You can set aside time on the weekends you don’t see your children to spend time together online, either chatting or playing online games together. You should, of course, teach them about online safety. There’s one great plus to communicating this way – it enhances their computer skills.
The phone is an excellent way of staying in touch. You can call your kids in the evening, or buy them mobiles and talk to them on their way home from school. It’s a chance for chatting on a regular basis – every evening, if possible. The calls don’t have to be long, just an opportunity for you to catch up on what’s happened during their day.
What to Talk About With Your Children
Children can be notoriously uncommunicative. Ask about school and you’ll hear “it was okay,” or something similar. Draw them out where you can, ask a few questions, enough so you can gauge what’s happening. But don’t just talk; listen, too. Let them lead the conversation, talking about things that are important to them. Develop an interest in their interests so you can talk more knowledgably about them (and you’ll discover that in many cases, interests can change from month to month, so you’ll be playing catch-up).
Above all, simply talking is the most important thing – often it doesn’t matter what you talk about. The more often you can do it, the stronger the bond between you and your children. Many men only talk to their children when they have contact, and it takes a determined, ongoing effort to keep regular contact, but the results are more than worth it.
Obviously, the situation is far easier when your ex doesn’t put obstacles in your way. But if you have parental responsibility, you should be able to have regular access via phone calls or online with your kids.
It’s important to keep as many channels of communication as possible open with your kids. Don’t be afraid to discuss issues they’ll face in life – sex and drugs, for example. These might be addressed at school, but it never hurts to reinforce them. Also, if you talk to your ex and hear about issues that the children have, discuss those with them, too. It’s not simply part of being a parent; it’s also caring and wanting the best for your children.