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Long Distance Parenting - Reconnecting With Young Family

by Ken
(Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

My Happy Girls. I haven't seen Indienna yet, born in late November, 2010

My Happy Girls. I haven't seen Indienna yet, born in late November, 2010

How can a 61 year old Canadian husband and Dad, with a 30 year old Filipino Wife and 3 girls, all under 4 yrs old, reconnect quicker?

My wife, Dina and I met on the internet 5 1/2 years ago, got married, and started a family right away. Since I'm Canadian, and she is Filipino, we had difficulty getting her a visa to Canada quickly, so she opted to stay in the Philippines with her family.

We have built a nice home there, and she has a good life now. I agreed to let her stay, but at the cost of being away from her and our children for almost 11 months of the year. I have a difficult time re-connecting with my oldest, and now my second daughter each time I return.

My heart hurts over this. I'm working on SBI and my website which will allow me to live forever with them there but it will take time. I still need to work here for a few more years to be able to provide for them. My next visit will be near the end of February.

My wife and I talk every day on the phone but it's not enough. She encourages the oldest, Nanet, and second girl, Kendi to chat with me also. How can I better prepare for our reunion and get over the 'strange factor' sooner. It usually takes two weeks for them to warm up to me each time.

Thanks for the advice,

Ken RR


Comments for Long Distance Parenting - Reconnecting With Young Family

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Building Long Distance Relationships With Children
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Ken,
Your girls are gorgeous, it must be so hard being apart for so much of the year, my heart goes out to you.

It does take time to reconnect with kids, and you can't force it, it has to be on their terms. Relationships take time to build and need ongoing contact - much like the relationship developed with your wife. Children are no exception, and they need frequent contact with you. So you have a much bigger challenge than a Dad living with them all the time. But there are ways you can maintain and build the relationships with them that will help to ease the way to reconnecting each time you return home.

It is hard when they are young to talk on the phone. Are you able to Skype with them? Talking on the phone is much more satisfying with your wife, and I must say I find Skype a bit stilted for conversations, but I think it is better with kids. You can read them stories, sing songs, be silly etc. They can show you their toys, you play peek-a-boo games. You can get some puppets and do a puppet show for them for example. Even if it is only for 10 minutes, once per week, it gives them something visual to see, and you can be more playful, whereas on a phone call it is a lot harder. You need to arrange with your wife that you will talk to her separately, that the Skype time is not the time for the two of you to be chatting.

I'm a long distance Grandma, so I can relate in a very small way to your dilemma. These are some of the things I do to maintain my relationship with my Grandchildren.

Record videos of you reading stories to the girls, and send them and the books over each month. I know you want to be putting as much time into building your website as possible, but look at it as family time, even if they are not with you. Your wife can put them on each night as part of the bedtime ritual, and then when you are with them, continue on, but with you right there in the flesh!

I got my Granddaughters a scrapbook, and I send letters to them with pictures of animals, little stories, photos of my garden, anything that I think they might be interested in. They can then paste the letters into the scrapbook, and that also becomes a reminder of me. I decorate the cover with a photo collage of our time together.

Part Two Follows . . .

Building Long Distance Relationships with Children - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Every time I visit, I make up a photo story album, using the photos of our time together, but I make it like a story - like Mia and Lyla Meet the Wild Lion, Or Silly Grandma. Just be creative about it, draw little pictures and it becomes a book they can read, which again will remind them of their time with you.

Every now and then I also send over little presents - just small things like a packet of stickers, or a stencil, a coloring in page, or a funny pencil. Kids love getting letters and presents, though you don't want to be just giving presents.

Send photos of you doing things if you can take your own photo! Just things about your every day life - you could make up a Day in the life of Daddy story, A photo of you brushing your teeth, in front of your computer, in front of your car, at work etc. So they get a sense of you living your life in Canada.

When you do get to be with them, don't try to push them to come to you, just let them move in to you at their own pace. Many parents often make the mistake of making their little kids kiss or hug people when they are not ready. It is much better to respect them and move at their pace.

It is a huge adjustment for them, each time you come, suddenly their Mom, who they have had all to themselves is paying attention to you. And someone else starts telling them what to do.

Make your time with them as much fun as possible, kids warm up much quicker when it is silly and fun. You obviously love games, so playing lots of games with them, go on adventures, exploring the back yard for monsters, pretend you can't find the girls, lots of hide and seek, tickly monster games etc. Although just gauge it until they are ready to be tickled or cuddled. Some kids warm up quickly to being physical, some take a while before they feel comfortable cuddling someone. All I wanted to do when I saw my Granddaughter for the first time, was to grab her and cuddle her. But I really had to hold back until she was ready to come to me, and it took a while until she finally came and climbed on my lap for a story. You will be dying to hold them in your arms again, but coming on too strong may scare them off a bit, so try to go at their pace.

Part Three Follows . . .

Building Long Distance Relationships With Children - Part Three
by: Anonymous

I would recommend that you leave the bossy stuff to your wife. You can discuss together what you think are the important things about raising children so you are in agreement, but the reality is she is the one doing the full time parenting, and at this stage, the girls are likely to get confused and resentful if you take over the discipline. Of course you support your wife in her requests of the girls, but until you are living with them full-time, or more often, it will work better if you can slot into their routines and rules etc. You will all have heaps of adjusting once you are all together again!

Really the best advice is play heaps with them. Play breaks down the barriers. They are not little adults so trying to have conversations like you would to an adult or older child is difficult, so when you are with them, just get in touch with the child in you and play with them. Use their toys as puppets and do heaps of role-play games, sometimes a toy can put things into words that they can't. Mr Ted can say, "whose this funny man come to see you?" and Dora the Explorer can say, "I know who this is, this is Daddy! Daddy lives far far away across the sea in Canada, he came all the way on a plane because he so wanted to see his special girls. Daddy gets sad that he can't see his girls more." Then Mr Ted can give Daddy a cuddle. Get the idea? You can put words to the whole situation in a fun way that is a bit removed from direct questions to the girls. They will quite likely join in.

Maps are another fun way to give them an idea of how far away you are. You can get some wonderful big floor maps of the world with little pictures of things for each country. Then you can show how you fly all the way over each country until you get to Canada. It gives them something to relate to, and will help them to understand the concept of where you go when you leave.

Unfortunately it will be inevitable that at the moment, spending so long apart, it will take some time to reconnect, but just hang on to your dream of all being together, and do whatever you can to maintain and build the relationships long term until you can all be together again.

Best of luck Ken, I hope it will not be too long until you can all be together as a family.

Annie Desantis

Thank you so much for your numerous ideas and experience.
by: Ken RR

I'm overwhelmed by your deep insight into not just my dilemma, I see.

And yes the girls and I keep building on a little game Nanet and I started they intuitively call 'meep, meep'. After I say these magical words it wakes up the monster within me they love to see. Evolving so that now I am a monster. So I start snarling and chortling through my nose. It sends them scampering and giggling in fearful delight to the bedroom. Why there? Because that's where they want the monster to chase them across our 7' by 11' bed. I chase them snarling louder all the way to their safe but fun place. I stop. I play dead for a few seconds then start reaching for them across the giant bed. They giggle uncontrollably scampering to get away. Then I start the Air Raid siren noise low in my throat and come at them like divebombers and reach out for them with my hand and make exploding bomb sounds when I grab them. then it seems Nanet always wants to fly. so I grab her by her left arm and leg and start swinging her around in giant circles high in the air. And Kendi is there waiting for here turn. I drop them like human bombs with sound effects onto the bed and pillows.

When I get tired I lay down and relax for 7 seconds, because that's all they give me, I then break out with 'meep, meep' all over again. The shrieks fill the neighbourhood once more...

But that takes two weeks to get to that stage of closeness.

Yes go for explorations. We've done that, and Nanet remembers things I do with her at a very young age. Surprisingly. But she won't go with me alone for a long time.

But I like the scrap book idea. I'm sure that will prove helpful. We could sit and open it when I come and share stories. I will go with them and collect all the things Nanet and I talked about when she was really young and make a scrap book of them, like the little green malungay leaves we stop to eat every morning; the yellow butterflies we chased across the rice paddies; the Barangay shelter we played in, where we lost her flip flops in the flooded irrigation ditch beside it, and touching the big water buffalo tied at the side of the road, and the motorcycle rides to the lake nearby.

And Yes for sure, leave the bossy part of parenting to Mom, for sure. I see the hurt look immediately in Nanet. Never again. I feel worse than she does. I spend a lot of time apologizing for being away so long.

I try to build dreams for them to follow. No pressure, just full throttle fun and exhiliration toward what they love to do.

Nanet loves to teach Kendi what she learns at pre-school. Kendi loves to sing and dance and has no shyness in a crowd. Nanet came home from school after her first day and said she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. And Kendi is stil singing with abandon, like a wild Kate Perry and Firework!

You got to laugh. We feel your love.

Thanks a million Annie.






Meep Meep :)
by: Annie Desantis

Ken I love your meep meep game! I could just picture it! Maybe you can develop a warm up version of it, start the meep meep but then you go and hide? And build up to the more physical version as they get used to you again.

Just hold to your vision, they will develop some wonderful memories of being with you, even though you can't be with them all the time. You are a lovely Dad, many kids maybe with their Father all the time, but don't get anywhere near the kind of quality attention you give them. So just enjoy every precious moment!

Annie D:)

Back and Alone Again - Unnaturally
by: Ken

Hi Annie,

This last trip to the Philppines was wonderful. I've been back in Canada a week now but I'm still jet lagged.

Nanet is a year older and much friendlier at the airport - smiling sweetly. Even though there was the face to face show of love and affection, it took her the same two or three weeks be really happy and natural with me again.

Kendi was the shy one this time, but she came around in the first week and was the one who coaxed Nanet to be more loving. She is everyone's favourite, and Nanet senses this.

So I'm thankful for their character differences.

Kendi is completely cuddly and happy and impetuos. At 2 1/2 yrs. she is extremely well coordinated as in, able to catch and throw, and even create quicker games, and steer her little push car around anything at breakneck speed. That she got from me. When Kendi squeezes in between Mom and I when we're in bed, she will share her love and kisses with us both like a true heart does. She gets that from her Mom.

Nanet broods, stares as if thinking, and smiles only when she is flying in the air or speeding on the motorcycle, or racing through the house with the toy push car over our smooth tile floor. She got that from me. Her fascination with the electronic equipment has turned her into the go-to person when you want to do anything with it. And I really need her for that. That she got from her mother. She'll squeeze in between Mom and I in bed only to get Mom's full attention again, not mine.

We went to the children's swimming pool she let me take her down the slide and teach her how to swim for hours! Last time she wouldn't touch me. Nice.

Nanet will make a fine Accountant and manage the family's business afffairs. She spends hours doing her numbers homework and asking questions just the way her teacher does. And her singing voice is improving. She actually practices and practices her singing, especially after she listened to me sing the same songs to her with the correct pitch and tone. Nanet is shy when dancing, but sings anywhere, even on the bus, or in a crowd.

Kendi is almost always happy and is quite content to be left alone. She will go take another shower, change her clothes, find the baby powder and get all white. She has a naturally sweet voice. She might be the next 4 year old wunderkind on YouTube. When she wants your attention ahe will scream. Everyone calls her 'High Pitch'. She has good stage presence, handles the mike well and smiles all the time. WOW!

Our new sweetie, Indienna, is so attentive and happy I think her IQ is higher than all of ours. She reacts to more things, baby talks more, and makes great effort to use voice intonations like Mom and I do. She loves to be where the music and the other children are.

It was sadness once more as I packed to leave.
When I was on the plane looking out the window at the clouds I wondered when I would never have to go away without them again.

Til next time Annie'

KenRR


Back to Long Distance Parenting :(
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Ken,

I've been thinking of you wondering how you were adjusting to being back - so hard to leave your little ones and your lovely wife.

Just hold the vision of you all being together in the near future, it will happen.

Sounds like you had a lovely time, those will be precious memories for you all. It's so lovely to see how different each child is, with their different abilities and personalities. They sound like bright wee things.

I hope you get to go back in the not too distant future,

All the best,
Annie D :)

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