When You are the Absent Parent
There are any number of reasons why you may be living apart from your children. Your relationship may have broken down, or you may live or work far away, you are in prison or your child is in care. In any of these circumstances it can be hard to maintain communication with your children. Here are some ideas and some organisations to support you.
Ideas for types of contact
Keeping in touch with your children will change depending on how old they are. You as the parent need to operate on their level, even if that means you doing new things.
- Younger children will like picture postcards through the mail. A young child will enjoy using a wall chart and colouring in the days until they see you again
- Children can chat on the phone from a very young age, perhaps two years old (but be mindful that they don’t always like to)
- You can record some bedtime stories and rhymes for your child to have at their other home
- Once children have a mobile phone, you can text as well as phone
- Young people love using MSN and Facebook to communicate. If you don’t use these, LEARN!
Remember that children are not interested in your housing situation or how depressed you are feeling or how you can’t find a job and have no money. All communication needs to be about them, what they are up to, what is their favourite toy, colour, food etc. Praise everything they say. Don’t put pressure on them to return contact, let them go at their own pace.
If the other parent is restricting contact
- Will the other parent come to mediation?
- Offer to have your parenting time with another person present, eg a family member, if the other parent has concerns
- Try writing a polite letter to the other parent asking for regular news updates
- Provide their school with a supply of stamped addressed envelopes; most schools will happily send copies of reports and newsletters.
- Attend Parents’ Evenings.
- Take some legal advice
- If the other parent is blocking ALL contact, start a scrapbook and stick in it pictures of you, letters and cards you would have sent if you had been allowed. What a wonderful gift for a child when they are older!
If your children are in care
You will have to be guided as to contact and parenting time by the rules you are given, depending on the reason your children are in care.
If you live in a different town/country
In addition to the contact methods above, you could consider a Skype phone and/or a webcam. Time spent together will be limited so make a regular 'date' for contact rather than “speak to you soon”. Don’t be too upset if a young child does not want to speak to you on the arranged date; just arrange another time. Be flexible as to the child’s routine. This is particularly important where you are in a different time zone: be sensitive as to bedtimes or when a favourite TV programme may be on
Where can I go for support?
- Dad.info Gives an overview of the law. Although it is called dad info, the comments about contact apply equally to mums.
- Match Mothers Supports mothers separated from their children for whatever reason
- Family Rights Group Supports those whose children are in care
- Families need Fathers Dedicated to help you have a relationship with your child
- Fatherhood Institute Formerly Fathers Direct
- Prisoner Families Supports families of prisoners
- Storybook Dads Organises bedtime story reading for parents in prison to send to their children.