Many co-parents already know things can get challenging with work and travel commitments. There are the logistics and negotiations of swaps on your custody schedule, and there are also the emotional challenges and tolls on the children. We realize the logistical answer is different from family to family, but how can you stay connected with your children when commitments take you out of town on a regular basis?
Juggling schedules when married and traveling is hard enough but doing it when co-parenting can be monumental. It’s all about building that support system of friends, family, daycare, and babysitters. You need a deep bench of 3-5 trustworthy babysitters in your area to help you out when that flight home has been canceled or running late. Some co-parents ‘stack’ their babysitters meaning they will hire shifts of sitters, including overnight, to make sure their bases are covered. Others may simply adjust their parenting time schedule so the other parent accommodates those travel days, but we realize that may not always be the best solution for numerous reasons.
Once you clear all the scheduling challenges, what can you do to stay connected with your little ones? Over the years I have had jobs that have had me on the road between 15-60% and my ex is a flight attendant, so we’re sensitive to the topic. With three quickly growing boys, I’m happy to share a few hacks.
First and foremost we established a co-parenting pact that allows the kids to get in touch with us whenever they feel the need. If they’re with mom and have a question for dad they call me -and vice versa. On the road when my kids were a little younger (ten and under), I packed a few extra surprises. Every night, schedule permitting, they got a quick call via Skype/FaceTime to say hi. I would usually pack one of their favorite kids’ storybooks and read it too them as they settled into bed.
Depending on their energy level, I may mix it up by packing one or two of their favorite stuffed animals. I’d either do an impromptu puppet show with their favorite little guys or throughout the day photograph their stuffed animals following me through my day; sipping coffee with me at the gate at the airport, or sticking out of my backpack while in a cab, or tucked in bed at the hotel room at the end of the day. This gave me a chance to share little stories about my travels and connect with them.
Co-parenting Live Stream
I realize storytime does not work so well when the kids get older but I have an alternative that seems to work with tweens and teens: live stream. It slows things down a little bit and takes the pressure off the need to have a full conversation. Perhaps your co-parent is busy making dinner or is busy with something else. I tend to connect with my tweens and teen when they’re huddled over study sheets, doing their homework. I open a line on Skype/FaceTime and they can simply connect with me while they work.
The focus is on getting their assignments done but I am there to help spell a word or work through a math problem. They may be off screen but it is akin to an open conference call with your ‘Team’. I may set them up for a solid lego session on the floor while I’m making dinner and let them catch up with their mother on FaceTime.
This may seem like ‘next level’ stuff for your co-parenting situation, but it may challenge you to re-think the way your children have access to their parents. It’s about giving your kids ways to access their parents when they feel they need too, respecting the fact that they want/need a solid relationship with both parents to reap all the benefits of co-parenting.