Parenting from a Distance: Five Ways to Be an Effective Non-Custodial Parent

Being a successful parent is a hard job, under the best of circumstances. For a man or woman who is a non-custodial parent, the responsibility takes on additional enhancements, and often requires creative ways to give your child the security he or she deserves. Here are five simple things to remember in being an effective non-custodial parent.

1. Remember the power of three simple words: I love you. Say them often, and mean it. Every human being has a desire to know there is someone who values us, and will be there no matter how rough the road may become. Your opportunities to use these words will vary, depending on how often you get to spend time with your child. Don’t waste even one chance to say them. When you have a visitation weekend or a longer stretch in the summer, say them every day. Between visits, use them in your emails and your telephone conversations. Even as you child enters that phase of adolescence when those words become temporarily embarrassing, your attempts will mean a lot later in life.

2. After saying it, do it. Your expressions of parental love and commitment should always be underscored with putting those words into action. Listen to what your child has to say, respond to what he or she needs (not necessarily what your child wants ), support them in activities that build self esteem and encourage development of their talents. If at all possible, be at every piano recital, baseball game, or spelling bee you can. Read that school paper that your child is so proud of writing.

3. Maintain and enhance a positive working relationship with your child’s custodial parent. Ending a romantic relationship is often an emotionally devastating process, and bad feelings on the part of one or both parties may run deep and long. Regardless of how you may feel about the custodial parent as a person, keep in mind that person did help you bring this wonderful child into the world and into both your lives. Accept that the relationship between the two of you has changed from partners in life to the joint caretakers of another life. Respect and work with the custodial parent to ensure your child has love, support, and the necessities of life. Never criticize the custodial parent in front of your child, and keep any disagreements between the two of you. Your focus should always be on the two of you, in whatever ways possible, to work as a team for the benefit of your child.

4. Develop common interests that are unique to you and your child. The point here is to have some dynamic in your relationship that is just for you and your child, no one else. It can be something as simple as rooting for the same team, a favorite author, or an activity such as going bowling. While doing this may be simpler to accomplish if you and your child are the same gender, do not think that it is impossible to find some common ground with your opposite-gender child. Daughters need ways to positively interact with their fathers, as do sons with their mothers.

5. Cultivate a strong sense of security in your child. The fact that you are not living under the same roof does not mean your child cannot come to understand you are part of his or her support system, that you are there for confidences, laughs, hard times, and all the things that any parent under any circumstances would be. Your presence should be one that inspires confidence that whatever successes or failures the child will endure, you are there to help celebrate the good and to help work through the bad.

All parent/child relationships have their ups and downs. At times, you will be elated at the richness of the connection you have with your child. At other times, you will question how well you are doing. In all situations, remember that there will be ebbs and flows in the communication line between yourself and your child. But never, ever give up. Maintaining and growing a strong, loving relationship with your child is an endeavor that will bring great joy to both your lives for many years to come

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