DEAR AMY: I'm a dad in my late 30s and have two beautiful daughters, ages 5 and 7. I've been divorced for four years. Two years ago, my ex-wife decided she wanted to relocate out of state. After a big legal battle that took a serious financial and emotional toll on me, my family and especially my daughters, I decided that I could no longer continue the battle, so I allowed my ex-wife to relocate. I'm torn about the decision, but in my heart I know I did the right thing for my girls. Now they live 1,000 miles away. I get to see them on Skype, talk on the phone, and they travel back home every school break and every summer. I fly to visit them when time and money allow. Any advice on how I can be the best "long-distance dad" I can be?Distant DadDEAR DAD: I applaud your intentions and determination. This might be tough to hear, but the biggest single impact you can have on your daughters at this stage is to maintain a positive relationship with their mother. Realistically, she controls access to them in very basic ways.
I can only hope that now that she has gotten what she wanted, she will actively promote access -- because this is best for everyone -- especially the girls.
Skype is great for maintaining face-to-face contact. In addition to spontaneous calls, setting up a scheduled call each week would give the kids something to look forward to. Additionally, I suggest creating a photo book for each girl containing pictures of you going about your daily routine -- and of lots of photos of them. Kids love to leaf through photos and read warm and funny captions.
Send them postcards. Getting mail is fun for kids, and it's a great way to connect.
During your visits, do your best to establish a routine. Include their friends as much as possible. Don't express too much sadness about your long-distance separation. Staying positive will help them (and you) cope.