Daily Press (Sunday)

How to stay close when you are far

- Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “ExEtiquett­e for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.” drjannblac­kstone@gmail. com

Dear Dr. Blackstone: Iam very close to my 11-yearold daughter, but the truth is, she has a more convention­al home with her mother and bonus dad. And when he was transferre­d for business six months ago, I decided not to protest thinking it was really best for her not to be in the middle of a custody battle. Thing is, now that she lives five hours away, I rarely see her. Nothing like the two or three times a week and every other weekend that we used to share. Now the holidays are coming around and I feel like I just don’t know her anymore. I miss her terribly and I have no idea what to get her for Christmas. What do I do? What’s good ex-etiquette?

Dear Reader: Just because you moved away doesn’t mean you stop co-parenting with your daughter’s mother. So, ask her mom! You can bet she knows and would probably love the help with buying presents.

Now that your daughter has moved away, it’s especially important that you have a working relationsh­ip with her mother. Stop feeling sorry for yourself; you did the right thing. Now get in there and keep doing the right thing by being an active dad and co-parent even though don’t live nearby.

You’re concerned about staying close. There are quite a few presents that long-distance parents can offer this holiday season that will help promote better communicat­ion. The clearest choice is a cell phone. Although I occasional­ly run into parents who think adolescent­s shouldn’t carry cell phones, it’s still a great way to stay in touch. Texting actually enhances eye-hand coordinati­on and typing — don’t laugh, it’s true — unless your child develops carpal tunnel and that’s a dead giveaway, she’s abusing her phone privileges. FaceTime or video chat bring parent and child up-close so that you can do homework together, read a book together, send memes or photograph­s, or just chat. Most custodial parents will not mind, especially if you pick up the bill. Always coordinate this type of present with the other parent prior to purchasing it because cell phones are often used as behavioral leverage — “You’re grounded, no cell phone!” If you are perceived as interferin­g with your co-parent’s parenting strategy from miles away, that will cause more harm than good.

I must add that buying a phone can also raise some issues among the ranks and I would like to alert you to some common problems: parental controls — need I say more — and very clear rules about phone usage. I have seen some terrible arguments between co-parents over their children’s phones, so make sure you and your co-parent have the same expectatio­ns and never, ever ground your child from talking to their other parent. They may be grounded from every other person in the world, but that should not include parents — especially if they live five hours away. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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