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How to parent a child when you can't be there

Not all parents perceive their child custody rights to be fair. While some parents are blessed with the joys of having primary custody of their children - spending a lot of time with them and watching them grow up - others are stuck with only visitation rights.

Still, compared to yesteryear, today's child custody arrangements are more flexible and allow more parents to spend greater amounts of time with their children. Children, though, can sense that their time spent with a parent is constrained by a schedule. They know the days of impromptu surprise visits are now over, which can leave them feeling sad or unfulfilled.

Parents can take a number of steps in order to make the new custody arrangement easier on their children. "Flexibility" is a key term in a co-parenting strategy. Instead of following a schedule to a "T" and letting it dictate one's life, parents should compromise when they have to in order to meet the needs of their children. Not all of life's happenings can be crammed into a nonchanging schedule.

While a schedule should not be 100 percent permanent, it is definitely necessary so that a child has structure and knows what to expect at certain times.

Checking in daily with children can also help keep both parents in the loop about the day-to-day happenings. This doesn't even have to be done in person. With today's technology, parents and children can chat face-to-face over the computer.

Speaking of this technology, even when parents can't physically be with their children, they can offer encouraging text messages or emails to let the child know they are thinking of them.

Child custody arrangements can be tough to maintain, especially if the two parents do not see eye-to-eye. Keeping a child's best interests at heart will guide parents into making the right decisions.

Source: Huffington Post, "Part Time Presence, Full Time Parent," Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., Feb. 7, 2013

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