I believe that one of the hardest things about separating is the fact you no longer live with your children 24/7. For the parent who has the children mostly, it can be very difficult saying goodbye to them as they go to visit the other parent, even just for a night. For the parent who went from seeing their child every day, to maybe just once or twice a week, or maybe only on school holidays, it can be heartbreaking.
On a personal level, I can relate to this. My son lived interstate with his dad for three years and I only saw him during school holidays, and now my daughter has left home for University (yes, I know they are supposed to go, but sometimes you just aren’t ready, no matter how old they are).
So, here are some thoughts, about getting through a situation – where, for whatever reason, you don’t see your children as often as you would like. Some of these suggestions might also apply generally to parents who haven’t separated but might be feeling as if their child is becoming a bit of a stranger to them.
The first thing I would say to you is “They’re not dead”! I was moaning to a lady I met about my son living away and she said this to me. It turns out her son had died. That certainly put it into context!
Keep in touch. I know that sounds obvious, but with busy lives you have to make time to communicate with your children, whether you see them every day or not. Think of activities they might enjoy. Pakmag always has excellent ideas for affordable activities for children of all ages. You might also want to make time to listen to their music (as horrendous as it might be!); watch their favourite shows, read the book they are reading at the moment. This will give you things to talk about with your child. This is especially relevant to parents who live away from the child and might only have a phone call once or twice a week. Firstly, I’d suggest FaceTime is a much better option to a phone call, kids love to see faces and it means they can show you things on the screen. Before your call with your child, think about things to ask them and think about things to tell them. Sometimes children need this, for it to be a relaxed and comfortable phone call.
Keep involved with their school as well. All schools will send separated parents the newsletters, reports and so on, so you don’t have to rely on the other parent to send these things to you.
Make your plans for school holidays well in advance. I know most of us don’t get 6 weeks holiday a year but if you can possibly take time off work for when your child comes to visit you during school holidays, it’s worth doing so. You will find school holiday dates on the Internet well in advance and it’s worth booking airfares and activities at that time before prices go through the roof.
Don’t dwell on your sadness – It’s difficult to do, but easing back on the “I miss you” and “I wish you lived with me” comments will make it easier for your child. You know they miss you, and they know that you miss them. If this is a big topic of conversation it will only make your child feel sad and possibly guilty – for something that is not their fault. No matter how sad you are, keep your time with your child light-hearted and fun for them.
The big message here is that – it is about quality not quantity. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend with your child, it’s what you do with that time and how you use it to engage with them. Treasure your moments with them, in a blink of an eye they are pimply teenagers with attitude.