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Parenting from a distance – 4 guidelines

In my practice I often have a parent sitting across from me, telling me how guilty they feel about the little time they spend with their child because of divorce, working long hours or working remotely.

I see men in tears because they feel they are failing their children. I see women who gush out in anger, because they feel they are not living up to the “view of society” of what a mother is or should be.

I see the pain in each one of them and know that the guilt is eating them up.

I see people who sit in front of me near paralyzed from this. I see how they become small and quiet.

The guilt, the fear of failing, the stress of not living up to expectation makes it easy for us to be manipulated. And let us face it, children can be wonderful manipulators. Because they are not as developed yet in their communication it can often show as anger tantrums, withdrawal and disconnecting from the parent. This is very normal behaviour for any person. We often forget that children are only small people. They have the same emotional reactions to situations as you and I. The great difference is that they are in the process of learning how to deal with those emotions and what behaviour will be appropriate. But, if we give into these reactions and we do not deal with the underlying emotion, your child will learn very quickly what behaviour brings what present and trust me, they have no shame in using it against you.

I also see in my practice today, the adult child who were never guided in how to deal with their emotional circumstances. With every client, we discover where those great emotions lodged and are playing out in their lives now.

We are living in a world of emotion. That is how we experience this beautiful life that we came to discover and enjoy. And so, it should be, from love to hate, fear and anger to peace and joy. We are here to witness all the motions as they show in our life, to know what we like and where our limitations are. As a parent your greatest legacy will be to prepare your child for this emotional world they are venturing into.

There will be times when you “fail”, but that is as important a lesson as guiding them towards balanced adulthood. I have learned that some of the most valuable guidelines my children had was when I failed – they watched to see what I do with the “failure”. Imagine you give your child the permission to fail and not to fear it – how powerful will that make them?

The sad fact is that because we feel guilty, we overcompensate on material things. Why? Because we can see how we “give” love or attention. We can soothe ourselves, because that is why I am not with you so often – I work to provide and as part of that, I have the money to buy the things you like. Please do not get me wrong, I love what money can buy for me, I am not against you earning your money or buying gifts for your child. The difference is buying out of guilt because you feel powerless in the situation or buying something because it is a gift you want to give your child.

How do you cope with a long-distance relationship with your child?

1. Let go of the guilt. Guilt serves no one. It opens you to manipulation not only from your child, but from the media, big industry, friends, and family (however well intended) and from your own negative thoughts. Guilt is an emotion that must be dealt with as any other emotion. What is it I am feeling guilty about? What belief has this event triggered in me? How can I let go of the guilt so that love can flow freely again? With guilt comes a barrage of negative self-talk. And continuous negative self-talk builds limiting beliefs which starts ”running” your life and you start feeling not good enough or worthless. This eventually plays out in all spheres of your life. Life is what it is what it is now. And now, I am going to love me and you.

2. Allow your child to express their emotions. When your child has outbursts or withdraw and go quiet, ask them how they feel. They might be too young to say the exact emotion, but perhaps they can show you where they feel it in their body. Children are very honest. They might not say much but will show you. If their heart area is sore, then perhaps they feel not loved at the moment – it does not mean they are not loved, it is only this moment they feel not loved. Not answered, it could eventually carry over into a belief of “I am not loved”. And so, a feeling around the “gut”, the upper tummy area, above the naval, could be that they feel unsure. They are not trusting in themselves, and they fear failure. The “tummy” area below the naval could be a fear of loss. Discuss these with your child. Remind them that they are loved and that you will always be there to support them to the best of your ability. You might even find that within a minute or two you bouncy, happy child return because children are more ready to let go than any adult. Ohh, adults love to hang onto their limiting beliefs.

3. Make telephonic/Zoom/Face time fun. I you have a nightly routine of calling your child, take some time and find a “programme”. For instance, Monday evenings we read a story. Tuesday evenings we tell a story. Wednesday evenings we play knots-and-crosses. Only a few suggestions, make it fun. You will find that on game evenings it might become easy to bring in light chatter and your child will share lots with you. Thursdays could be joke evenings. This way you might discover your child’s toilet joke stage, their intelligent joke stage, etc. Laughter makes it easy to let love flow and love dissolves many, many problems.

4. Plan ahead. Plan for your time together. When we work away, we tend to long for the time we can hold our child close to our heart again, and we set goals and targets and plan for all we must do once we are back. We seldom plan for what we are going to do with our children once we are with them. We sort of think it will just flow. Make sure you slot time in for activities with your child – you already are good at setting goals for things. Often divorced parents say when they are with their child over weekends it is such fun. Why? Because the parent had planned things to do. Ask your child what they like or want to discover? Ask them what they might want to learn? Plan for your time with your child.

It might feel as though you are in this alone. It might feel that it is a deep dark tunnel, and you are going down instead of going up to the light. Remember, you have not had this experience before. You are learning as you are going. Be kind to yourself, you are learning. No one person knows it all. Love yourself enough to allow yourself to mess up.

Have fun with the planning of your next encounter with your child. It is like a ticket to an exotic destination that you have buying and you best start enjoying it today.

Sue Leppan

Transformation Life Coach

NLP Practitioner

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