John Cowan - Loving From a Distance

Publish Date
Thursday, 25 January 2018, 2:19PM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

If you do live away from your child there is good news. Technology today can help you stay in touch. I’ve talked to a dad who chats and plays games with boys twice a week while they are on the other side of the world, and plenty of families where Grandparents have regular Skype chats with their grandies. 

You might be familiar with good old texting, Skype and Facebook, but your kids might be using something else, something better, so ask them to show you – kids love to be treated as experts! Maybe you won’t understand straight away but here’s a real tip: the best way to quickly get to grips with new technology is to just type “How do I  use Instagram or Snap Chat or  whatever ” into the Youtube search box. You can guarantee some geek will have made a video showing you, step-by-step, how to do things.

Remember to send texts at appropriate times though and not when the children should be sleeping, and especially if they could be driving!  A survey showed the number one occasion teenagers texted while driving was to answer their parents, because their parents got cranky if they didn’t get an answer straight away!

If you are living away from your child, keep a diary and note your conversations.  Ask questions about things they told you last time.

Try to keep in regular communication – a predictable convenient time works well.

Don’t be worried if the effort to communicate always feels one-sided. The usual pattern in most regular chatting seems to be that one person is nearly always the instigator. If you start thinking, “I called last time so it is their turn to contact me”, both of you will be disappointed. 

Try to imagine your child and their world as you chat or message them. Realise that at times they may be upset or busy – you may not be able to tell why you are not getting a response or getting terse and cranky messages. It may have nothing to do with you, even though you feel they are being rude.

Don’t be put off if some calls don’t go well. They will come to appreciate and love your regular contacts.

my kids, just cruising around the suburb like tourists and we looked in one house and there’s a man walking around his lounge, stark naked. Now that’s the type of stuff that builds real memories in kids minds!

Hopefully we have built better Christmas memories for our kids than that. Yes, Christmas can be an expensive hassle, but it can also be wonderful time to build family culture that gives them roots and identity. I wish you a very special and happy Christmas.

About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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