The key thing in this article is that despite being an absent parent, you are one who wants to develop or maintain a connection to your children. Having the will to make it work in spite of the challenges this presents is the key.
How specifically you will connect is entirely down to your own circumstances. With facilities like Skype and FaceTime, if they are accessible to you both then they are of course a very powerful alternative to meeting face to face. Depending on the level of enthusiasm from the child in participating in these sessions (which the absent parent should not take personally because, lets be honest your children probably have a better social life than you and will at time have their friends over and be too busy to speak) it may fall upon the adult who is present (other parent/carer etc) to encourage the child to take up the opportunity to engage in these sessions. This could include encouraging the child to sit down and talk or even sitting with them to remind them of things that have been happening in their lives.
I appreciate that sometimes, the absent parent may be separated from the other parent and that this may cause a lack of willingness to support the child in participating in these sessions. As much as possible, the parents need to forget their own feelings for each other and whether they credit the other parent with being a ‘good enough’ parent or not. Every child has the right to two parents. If both are willing to be part of that child’s life then one should not get in the way of the other doing so or attempt to pollute the others relationship with the child. Let their child have their own relationship with that parent and make their own conclusions about them. Protecting them from what you believe to be true about that parent will not serve a positive purpose because the relationship you had will of course be very different to the one your child has.
The absent parent will need to make extra efforts in finding out about the child’s interests and most importantly begin to show an interest in those things themselves. For example, I had a client who had a keen interest in Skylanders. I’d never heard of a Skylander until I met this client. I could tell that in creating a connection, it was a way in if I would be prepared to indulge in their world. I could tell you all about Spyro the Dragon and Swamp Force if you asked me to (I’d appreciate it if you did because this information has only been useful to me with this one client and it feels like redundant knowledge). Don’t just ask them questions about it, do your own homework so that you can hold a conversation with them about it.
If they have a project to do at school, send them some website links to help them out. Know who their friends are and what the dynamics are like and persist if they appear to not reciprocate the interest. You’re the adult and you mustn’t give up on them if they doubt your sincerity.
You don’t need to be there to be there.
By Gemma Bailey