Clever Ways to Connect with Kids When You're Apart

I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can play together all night.
—Cartoonist Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes

Parents and kids often find themselves physically apart for lots of different reasons. Even when you aren’t sharing the same physical space with your kids, you can find lots of ways to connect—entering into each other’s dreams—by using a little bit of creativity and flexibility.

Here are some great ideas to spark your thinking from Stay Close: 40 Clever Ways to Connect with Kids When You’re Apart by Tenessa Gemelke:

Tips for . . .

  • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Ask your child to select a favorite photo of him- or herself that you can take with you when the two of you are apart. Give your child a picture of yourself that can be tucked in their bag or backpack. Talk about what makes your photos special and why you chose them.
    • Make a simple calendar together that shows the number of days left until you will be reunited. When you return, be sure you spend some time giving your child your full attention.
    • Blow up a balloon (without tying it off), and write a message on it with a marker. Deflate the balloon and leave it with the person caring for your child. Ask them to blow it up and read your message together while you are gone.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • When you must be away, leave a gift behind for your child wrapped in plain paper covered with funny jokes.
    • Record (video or audio) yourself reading favorite bedtime stories for your child to listen to in your absence.
    • While you’re away, collaborate on a story together. Take turns writing what happens next, a sentence or paragraph at a time. This works especially well via e-mail, and also works by \“snail mail\” too!
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Give a journal to your child as a parting gift, and scatter your own encouraging comments, short poems, or photos of yourself as a young person throughout the pages.
    • Slip a novelty pen and notepad or other small gift into your child’s school backpack, or leave it where they will find it after you are gone.
    • When you are reunited, realize that even if your kids missed you, they may not seem immediately overjoyed to see you. Kids need time to make the transition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you or miss you when you’re gone.
    • Play age-appropriate, on-line interactive games together, or instant-message and e-mail each other, if you have the capability to do so.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • If you don’t know already, find out how your teens use e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, blogging, and other newer forms of communication. Find ways to stay connected with them using their preferred methods.
    • Share your day with your teenager and ask for their advice in solving a problem. This demonstrates that you value their opinion—and you may really benefit from a new perspective.
  • Leave or send a note of encouragement to your teenager about a specific performance, competition, test, or other event they will face in your absence. Be sure to check in on how it went and to give additional support.

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