Enjoying regular time with both parents has been shown to increase a child’s self-confidence and sense of stability. This is especially important for the roughly one in four kids who will experience a parental divorce/permanent separation before turning 18. However, some separated families have had to switch to virtual parenting time to keep everyone safe during the pandemic or where the parents live far away from each other These tips can help ensure that your virtual parenting time is a rewarding and fun experience for everyone involved.
Virtual parenting time tends to go more smoothly when the custodial parent is committed to it as well. Their ability to help set up technology and find devices for a virtual visit will make things a lot easier, so it may be worth getting your family law attorneys involved. Having divorce lawyers who can help you sort out a virtual parenting time schedule may keep tensions from getting in the way of much-needed family time.
Another reason to enlist the other parent for help with video calls is that these sessions go best if you pick a time when your child is in a good mood and not rushed. If your child is younger, try to select a time when they are not hungry, tired, or in a hurry. You may need to be flexible with your visiting schedule, but selecting a time that works for your child and their other family members helps everyone get the most from virtual parenting time.
If you have a grumpy teen or hyper toddler, the idea of sitting down for a formal video conversation may feel intimidating. No matter how well you connect with your child in person, the structured feel of a video call can make it tricky to chat. Many parents mention to their family law attorneys/lawyers that virtual family time feels pointless because they just ask questions while their child answers in monosyllables.
To actually spark a conversation, you need to go beyond routine questions like “How was school today?” Most children love the opportunity to talk about their hobbies and interests. Ask them what sorts of games, toys, and projects they have been enjoying lately. It is perfectly fine if you do not know much about their interests since many kids appreciate the chance to explain their passions to an adult. Try to share a little from your day-to-day life as well. Simple things like pictures of the ducks you saw outside can help children feel like they understand and are involved in your life.
If your child is under 4 or 5, video calls may take a bit of extra work. Children as young as 8 months have been shown to enjoy video calls, even though they do not fully understand what is going on. One of the secrets to having rewarding video calls is knowing how to adjust your behavior to suit your child’s needs. First, you’ll need to be patient and expect your child to get through a few sessions before they start to really interact via video chat.
When you call for virtual parenting time, focus on looking into the camera. This is different from looking at the screen. While it’s tempting to spend your time looking at your child, focusing on the camera provides a sense of eye contact that younger children love. You also need to make sure you are close to the camera and clearly lit. Use a lot of gestures as you talk and move around a little. This helps younger children recognize you instead of just seeing a talking head. Be prepared to repeat phrases , sing songs, play peek-a-boo, and find other ways of engaging young children.
Most children and adults tend to prefer video calls that are more than just a back-and-forth conversation. A game is a fun, low-stakes way of getting your child to interact with you during COVID or long distanceparenting time. By including activities in your virtual parenting time, you make it into a fun and memorable event. Another perk of playing games together is that it gives you something to talk about even when you’re outside of the game. You can have your child pick a game for you to play together, or you can explain an old favorite to them.
The easiest way of gaming virtually is often just setting up a classic board game, calling your child, and then playing together. However, video games and new technology also provide you with a lot of other exciting opportunities. Tools like MSN Messenger have built-in games like Uno and chess. You can also get involved in actual video games, like Minecraft or Fortnite, together. There are all sorts of helpful programs designed to facilitate video calls alongside video gaming. Programs like Discord let you create a lobby, start video calls, and then send an invitation to play a game directly.
Reading a book with a child can always be an excellent bonding experience, and research has found that children whose parents read with them also get better grades in school. Fortunately, this beneficial and entertaining activity is very easy to do virtually. You can sit down with one of your child’s favorite books and read to them as you show the pages through the camera. For older children, encouraging them to read to you can also be entertaining. It may even be an excellent way to create a lifelong love of learning that helps your child in the future.
Reading books is also an excellent way of communicating with your child. Divorce attorneys frequently suggest parents read books like “Two Homes” or “My Family Is Changing” to younger kids to help them explore the concepts around divorce. Books on topics such as family, growing up, starting school, or disagreeing with friends can help your child grow and mature. After you read, chat with your child about the book and use it as a launching point for discussions.
Another fun idea for video calls with kids is having a meal together. If possible, work with the other family members to create a menu ahead of time so that you and your child can eat the same thing. Then, set up a tablet, phone, or webcam so that it shows you and your plate. As you and your child eat, you can interact with each other and get a sense of togetherness.
For younger children, you might not even need food to turn a virtual meal into a fun experience. Younger children often love playing pretend, so it could be fun to try having a fake meal as well. Doing things like pretending to hand a snack through the camera or sipping from a teacup can be a major source of amusement for younger children.
If you would like help arranging virtual parenting time or adjusting your custodial agreement, reach out to Lawrence Law Firm. Our divorce attorneys work with clients throughout New Jersey and handle a variety of cases. In addition to custodial arrangements, we can assist with divorce mediation, alimony negotiations, property division, prenuptial agreements, and more. To find divorce lawyers you can trust, fill out our online contact form or give us a call at 908-645-1000. We have offices in Watchung and Red Bank.