Ever have a hard time keeping your kids on the phone for hours? Is it like doing magic to get them to say a full sentence about their day during dinner? Do most of your questions get a response of a shrug or “I dunna know”? Maybe you text them and don’t hear back for hours or just get an emoji? So how in the world do you maintain a close relationship if you can’t physically see them for 2 months?!?!
If you are sadly separated during this chaotic crisis, there are ways to maintain a bond with your child, but you are going to have to make some updates in your digital code. Embrace technology – it is the key to your child’s heart! If technology just isn’t an option, there are still some ways to stay close.
This pandemic is a strange time that affects ALL of us!
So many are sacrificing time spent with loved ones and the connection that comes from hugs and touch and just hanging out spending time together. Grandparents aren’t able to hold their new grandchildren, people have to forgo all visits to elderly relatives, we can’t be with the sick and dying, funerals are not taking place: our core relationships have been disrupted.
This means that interrupted visitation is not because of you! If you are not able to physically see your kids, it is not your fault and your kids will understand. Every child living through this will have stories about not being able to be with a loved one. It doesn’t mean they won’t be sad or upset, but you have not abandoned them, and they will know that.
Keeping this in perspective may help. Our military families understand this kind of sacrifice all too well. As much as they love their family, they forego long periods of time not being able to hug their kids and spend time with their families because of their service to our nation. And likewise, social distancing is also performing a service to our nation. The good news is that this will not be as long as a traditional deployment!
Stay flexible, and you will find ways to stay close.
If you have the kind of relationship with your Ex where you may go to their house, then you may be able to have some limited contact where you can at least see each other. Many people have been visiting loved ones through windows and glass doors. Some have just held up signs and waved, others have played tic-tac-toe through the glass, or you could open the screen door or a window and have a conversation from 6 feet away. Keep in mind that you might not be able to keep younger children in place for too long and it may be slightly uncomfortable for your Ex to have you present at the house for too long. If you have a decent relationship and need to maintain strict social distancing because of your profession or possible exposure – this might work!
Technology Won’t Be Perfect, Be Patient
Technology options are many! Keep in mind that Facetime, Zoom, and Skype might not work for your kids like it does for adults. No matter your child’s age, it may be difficult for them to focus on a conversation for too long just looking at the phone. Recognize that and schedule blocks of time for when you can just ‘hang out.’ Learn to be comfortable with some silence and expect some silliness. If your child doesn’t act natural and is being weird, just ignore it and see if they will settle down.
Let your toddler bring her blocks or toys up to the phone to show you and then walk away. Plan on not getting a response to everything you say or question you ask. Your child will likely end up determining how this goes – that’s okay!!! Let your kids just play while you watch. With your older kids, be present on the phone as they are doing their homework, or plan one night to eat dinner at the same time, or just be on the phone as you watch the same movie.
Start communicating in different ways instead of face-to-face. Start sending funny pet videos or emails once a day. (Check out buzz feed animals). Have them send you their favorite TikTok video every day and you do the same for them. Record a short video of you talking to them that you can send them. Every night, write down something that happened that made you think of your child and tell them that once a week – either through a phone call, letter, or modern technology.
Get More Ideas on Our Covid Resources Page!
How Do I Deal with A Difficult Ex Who Controls My Access?
While Courts may end up allowing some changes in parenting plans due to safety concerns over Covid, Courts are NOT going to like one parent restricting the other parent from visiting with their child. Excuses of “we weren’t at home”, “we were busy”, “I told you my brother was coming over today” are not going to work! If you can’t have physical contact with your child, you should expect increased contact via the phone or computer.
Keep in mind, this will be intrusive for your Ex. You will, essentially, be in their house with them. That can be very uncomfortable for anyone, so set up a schedule. The schedule is not to restrict you, but to give your Ex a heads-up so that they can choose to be in another room or engaged in a different activity. Recognize that hearing your voice may cause a lot of stress and you want to make this as easy as possible for everyone because then, it’s easier to get what you want: contact with your kids!
Don’t forget – we all like routine! If you set up a schedule for talking to your kids, you are more likely to have their full attention, and it can be something you both look forward to during the day.
If you have a younger child, you will be very dependent on your Ex for access – they can’t work the phone by themselves and you may get hung-up on a lot! Be patient, and understand that this isn’t your Ex’s fault – this is a result of the coronavirus. Try something a few times to figure out what the problem is and that way it will be easier to figure out a better way of doing things.
If you have an older child, it will be tempting to cut your Ex out of everything but you need to be courteous and let them know that you are planning on hanging out for dinner, or a movie, or for homework. Nobody wants to get caught saying something stupid, or be caught on camera without knowing someone is listening/watching. Even if you don’t tell your Ex directly, reinforce to your child to yell out to them that you are on the phone.
Maintaining a routine during this period is especially important, so having contact with your kids at a set time is not about putting you in a box as much as establishing a pattern for everyone, to give life a little more predictability and security during this crisis. It will be good for them, and you, to know that at 4:00 every afternoon you have a very important date! It gives everyone something to look forward to during the day.
If you can figure out how to communicate with your kids in creative and more seamless ways, you will be able to grow a stronger and deeper bond with them now, and forever. Even when they are grown, by finding different ways to reach out and check-in will benefit you immensely! Do the work now to make your relationship better forever. And BE SAFE!