Fathering From Afar: How to be Present Even if You Don’t Live Near Your Kids

Unfortunately when parents decide to go their separate ways, it often means a change in location for one or both parents. There are many reasons that fathers live a distance from their kids.

  • Living apart is more expensive than living together. A father without primary custody may have to relocate for a higher paying job in order to support himself and his children. The mother may have to relocate for a job and take the kids with her.
  • While the court may legally order a custodial mother to stay put, she is often allowed to relocate simply because she says she needs a change. She may or may not be trying to keep her ex from the kids, or she may feel the need to physically distance herself from her ex.
  • Sometimes a parent must care for their aging or elderly parent and is forced to relocate in order to provide that care.

While these are some of the more common reasons, there are many factors that can put geographical distance between a father and his children, even in families that aren’t going through divorce.

Creating a Presence

Regardless of whether you see your kids regularly or rarely, you want them to know how much you love them and that you’re not away from them by choice. Staying connected is the best way to create a constant presence. There are many things you can do to stay connected that help your relationship with your children flourish rather than deteriorate.

Take advantage of technology. Technology has made it easier for long-distance fathers to have a greater presence in their kids’ lives. Thanks to platforms like Skype and FaceTime, you can see your kids every day and have a face-to-face conversation with them for free. This is a great way to catch up with your kids each evening. You can hear stories from their day, updates on what’s going on at school and in extracurricular activities, and even view artwork and other projects or accomplishments. Thanks to these platforms you can even attend your child’s piano recital from a distance. How’s that for a super dad?

Do something special. Because letter writing and older forms of communication are so rare these days, taking a few extra minutes to write a letter or send a card in the mail can really brighten your kids’ day when they come home to a special piece of mail from dad. You can do other special things that don’t cost a lot of extra money too. Try sending your daughter flowers at school on Valentine’s Day or passing something meaningful from your own childhood to your son.

Take a vacation. You may be able to spend extra time with your kids by offering to take them on a vacation, if you can afford the long-distance travel expenses. If you’re low on funds, you may be able to take them on a lower budget excursion by flying or driving in to their location and then taking them to do something low-cost or free, such as a camping or backpacking trip.

Change your custody arrangement. If your spouse was awarded custody you can appeal the court’s decision, especially if new circumstances such as a change in location come to the table. Even if the custody decision isn’t reversed, you may be able to change your custody arrangement so that your kids are living with you more of the time. Fathers who live a long distance from their kids are often given a custody arrangement in which their kids live with them during summer vacation, winter break, or for a one- to three-month period any time of year if children younger than school age are involved.

Form a relationship with older children. It’s never too late to connect with your kids. If you were estranged from your kids because of divorce or long-distance living arrangements when they were younger, try reconnecting with them as they become adults. Older children and adults understand reason and circumstances better than younger ones and are easier to tell (rather than show) that you want to be a part of their lives. Even if you missed a great part of their childhood years, you’ll be happy to discover that they never stop growing up and changing and that it’s not too late to have an impact on their lives. Adult children may soon have their own kids, and being an active part of your grandchild’s life can help make up for time lost with your own kids.

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