When living close to your kids is not an option, kids and Dads feel the pain because there is no way "to hug, brush back a forelock of hair or drop in on football practice" says Dr. Isolini Ricci.
Despite the distance, showing your kids you’re dependable is the goal. Though you may be temporarily sidelined while managing your own feelings, keeping the goal in sight helps you and your kids move through change.
Dr. Ricci relates change to affirmations which “brings forth our best intentions.” Remind yourself with, “I show my children that I love them through notes, email or in person now more than ever before.” Or, “They need not fear they will lose me,” remind you and your kids you’re still a family – despite the distance.
While best intentions may translate into disappointments because of financial or other burdens, Vicky Lansky in her Divorce Book for Parents, suggests, “Think of costs as any other investment with long-term benefits.”
When time, cash and creativity are not commodities, looking for help is logical and helps you do what you want to do – be a great Dad for your kids.
Using a variety of simple activities creates patterns of predictability. Through special contacts you “reduce the stress your children feel,” says Dr.Ricci, “because they won’t worry about when or if they will hear from you or see you.
Added to Ricci’s comments are Steven Ashley’s, Founder of Divorced Fathers Network and author of The Long-Distance Dad who shows Fathers how to remain close even when they’re far away.
“Just because you’re divorced from your ex, doesn’t mean you want to have an ex ’kid, says Ashley.
And “even if a father doesn’t live with them,” he says, “children with involved Dads do better in school, exhibit higher levels of emotional well-being and have an easier time making friends,” and backs it up with stats from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Ashley adds that being involved offers reciprocal benefits. “Fathers active in family life report lower level of stress and depression coupled with higher satisfaction in guiding a young person’s life.”
The following are among the hundreds of simple ways to be a great Dad followed up with more helpful sources.
From the Dads at a Distance Handbook:
1. Spend an hour, day or week writing down as many things you appreciate about your child. If you write 5 things for 7 days you have 35 ways you appreciate them. Either send it or have it framed as a certificate of appreciation.
2. Have a trophy made with your child’s name and the phrase “World’s best Son or Daughter.” Send it with a letter explaining why.
3. Have an official pose you both use when posing for pictures.
From the Dad’s at a Distance Web Page:
4. Purchase/ make stickers of your child’s name and stick them over the names of a character in one of their favorite books. Or, get a picture of your child’s face and place it over the character’s face. Add to it by making a video/audio tape of you reading story and send it with the book.
5. Arrange for flowers, pizza, etc. to be delivered to your child before or after a special event (a play, recital, sports game). Include a note telling them how proud you are of their accomplishment.
6. Start a letter and take it with you throughout the day. Add a sentence now and then. Say where you are when writing– elevator, taxi etc.
7. Send a photo documentary of what you do all day. Be sure to include things like what you eat, how you travel, etc. Things that you might think are boring, your kids want to see. Have your child do the same.
From Karen Mauldin, “Keeping a Connection with your Children”
9. Talk to each of your children separately to learn his or her preferred way to keep in touch. If possible, give them each a long distance phone card designated for calls to you so they can easily get in touch when they want to talk.
10. Become instant message buddies; a fun way to run into your kids online.
Use free programs like AOL.Instant Messengers.
11. Find unique connections or areas of interest with each of your kids that’s "your thing" together. Send articles, information, books, about that shared interest all year.
Helpful Sources:Ashley, Steven. (2008) The Long-Distance Dad. This book shows reasons why long distance Dads should stay connected to their kids through practical Strategies.
12. Parts are available at http://www.co.bannock.id.us/dmoretip.htm