Today, thanks to technology, families are able to stay in touch in ways we never imagined. Is your family the one out of every three families where children don’t live under the same roof as their biological parents? Are you in a family affected by either marital separation or divorce where mothers or fathers end up living apart from their children? Is one parent in the military and on deployment? Is one parent in jail?
When you are not living with your child/children every day, it takes more intentional effort to stay connected. Don’t leave it to chance! Technology can make your job easier to stay close to your children. Take time to think through meaningful ways of interacting with your children from a distance. For school-aged children and older, decide with your children how to stay connected.
Staying connected to your loved ones has never been easier with e-mail, text messaging, Internet chats and phone calls. Social networking sites, Videoconferencing, texting and email chatting are just the beginning of a long list of electronic tools to help you stay in touch with your children.
But don’t forget the power of snail mail. A letter or postcard is a solid item that your child can hold on to and read over and over. A letter can be heart-warming can include thoughts you might not be comfortable saying face to face. Words on a paper can be comforting for a child to read multiple times. Paper birthday and greeting cards are still a special way to make a connection when you live in separate places.
Face-to-face visits are the best way to stay in your child’s life. Make spending time with your child a high priority. If something comes up that prevents you from keeping your commitment, connect with your child directly, if possible. As soon as you can, work with your child to come up with an alternative plan to see each other.
If you are in a situation where face-to-face visits aren’t possible, videotaping yourself talking and/or reading to your children is a way to communicate that they can watch again and again.
The preferred way of staying in touch with your children will vary with the ages and personalities of your children. It is important to hear what they want from you, as well as what they will commit to in return. If possible, make contact with your children daily or at least several times a week. It is important to be reliable, be consistent, and be genuine.
Here are some resources:
Operation: Military Kids (http://www.operationmilitarykids.org/public/home.aspx) is the U.S. Army’s collaborative effort with America’s communities to support children and youth impacted by deployment. Regardless of whether Families are experiencing deployment for the first time, the second time or another in a series of multiple deployments, OMK’s goal is to connect military children and youth with local resources in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being.
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