The New Night Time Routine
Co-parenting with your ex is difficult. Co-parenting long distance, even more so. The biggest complaint I hear from the out-of-town parent is the lack of regular contact with their child. It is the hardest adjustment for both parent and child for most cases, going from daily time to maybe once a month.
With the advent of mobile phones, video chats, and text messaging, digital access is nearly boundless. But, both parents from different perspectives will often say, “but the kids are busy when there is a call.” And it is true, their child has a life, a rhythm, a routine outside of the out-of-town parent’s control and sometimes understanding.
And so, sometimes the solution is to set aside dedicated time for calls and video chat as part of the routine. At 6:00 p.m. every other night, the child and parent get uninterrupted time for a call. Then, the complaint comes that the child doesn’t want to, it feels like a chore, it prevent the child from doing what they want: play, watch tv, read.
Now, during a time when reliance on those calls and video chats to stay connected is at an all time high due to travel restrictions, recommendations for self-isolation, school closures and more, these complaints need to be addressed. Children deserve to feel as close and as loved by their out-of-town parent and technology can assist with that, when used effectively.
I’d suggest parents, whether out-of-town or not, re-imagine the purpose and schedule of regular phone calls and video chats. Children have routine and rhythms of their own – getting ready for school, commuting to and from school, activities, dinner, and bedtime. Rather than setting aside time between homework and dinner for parent time calls – when the child wants to play the most, incorporate those calls and contacts into other activities.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine recommendations, I’d always recommended short video chats or calls during the trip to and from school. Those ten to fifteen minutes in the car when a child is excited to talk about their day and share what they’ve learned. The value of this is the integration into something the child is already doing, regularly, that would promote frequent contact with the out-of-town parent.
With school closures, that opportunity is temporarily lost. But the ability to integrate meaningful, though short, contact between a parent and their child is not. Look for five to ten minutes, every day, whether it is mornings when your child brushes their teeth or at night when they are snuggled in their bed. A five minute call to say, “I love you, I miss you. How are you? What did you do today” goes a long way to staying connected with you child long distance.
Now, more than ever, it is important for all co-parents, whether living near or far, to re-evaluate their methods of staying in contact with their child. These are scary times, and children deserve to feel close and loved by both parents. Create a new night time routine.
If you’re unable to work with you’re ex to establish this new normal, reach out to The Manely Firm, P.C. We are all skilled in finding creating and strategic ways to develop plans, routines, and if needed court orders to ensure quality time with your child isn’t sacrificed because of distance.