Absent parents can sometimes struggle to stay in touch with their children, especially if their career is time consuming or the job takes them abroad for lengthy spells.
However accommodating the courts are in granting regular access rights, if a parent is no longer living at home, it requires more effort and imagination to maintain a vital, meaningful link with the kids. This can be doubly difficult if the relationship is strained – or even temporarily broken – as a result of the divorce.
In especially troublesome circumstances, an absent parent might be tempted to withdraw from their children’s lives, but I would argue that this is precisely when the most effort needs to be made on the parent’s part. If a child is already feeling abandoned and traumatised, the absent parent’s further withdrawal will only deepen their sense of confusion.
Staying in touch or building bridges with your children can be as much about simple forms of communication as grand gestures. If your job takes you away from home – either in this country or abroad – send the kids a postcard from each place you visit. To make this easier, put some printed address labels in your suitcase. Then simply buy a postcard, write a light hearted message and pop it in the post. Not only will your children know you are thinking about them, they will also be better able to picture where you are and what you’re doing.
Writing letters and cards is going out of fashion, but it’s much more personal and exciting for children to get something through the post rather than receive a text message on their mobile phones. Text messaging is how kids communicate with their friends.
When you see your children, think carefully about how to spend the time you have with them. You don’t need to organise action-packed activities; often it works much better if you do very little – going for a walk together or watching a film you will both enjoy. It can also be fun to cook a meal together – especially if none of you have much of a clue in the kitchen!
If you do want to take the kids out, a National Trust or English Heritage property is a gentle environment: you can stroll round the grounds, discover the history of the property together and enjoy a quiet lunch or afternoon tea in the café. Shared new experiences are a great way to bond.
However you choose to stay in touch, it’s important that you do so if you want to remain or become a “present” parent rather than an absent one.