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Feature Article


Tips for Nonresidential Parents

Angie Nickell, Former Graduate Assistant, Human Development and Family Studies, University of Missouri

It is important that nonresidential parents have regular contact with and remain involved in their children’s life. Research shows that a positive relationship and frequent contact with the nonresidential parent are important for positive child adjustment. Below are some tips for staying involved when your child’s primary residence is with the other parent.

Tips for nonresidential parents:

  • Be involved in your child’s school and extracurricular activities. Volunteer in your child’s school, if you can. Try to attend school events, such as parent-teacher conferences or school plays. Ask the school to send copies of report cards and other parent information to your home. Keep up with what your child is doing in school and other activities, so you can talk with your child about these activities. This lets your child know that you are interested in things that are important parts of his or her life.


  • Avoid doing only fun activities when you are with your child. You don’t always have to provide special events for your child. It is important to include your child in regular household routines when he or she is with you.


  • Allow your child to invite his or her friends to join you in family activities. By getting to know your child’s friends, you will show your child you are interested in his or her life and will be more informed about the people with whom your child is spending time.


  • Be reliable and consistent in spending time with children. They look forward to visits and are very disappointed when a parent is unable to be there or is late. If something comes up and you have to be late or miss a visit, call and let your child know as soon as possible. Reassure your child of your love and let your child know when you will visit.

If you live a long distance from your child:

  • Start a “postcard club” with your child. Give some stamped postcards to your child and take turns sending each other a postcard each week. This is a fun and quick way to keep in touch with your child. E-mail is another way to stay in touch with your child.


  • Create a journal to share with your child. Buy an inexpensive notebook and write your daily activities, thoughts, or feelings about your child in it while you are apart. Then exchange the notebook with your child when you meet and have him or her do the same until you meet again.


  • Schedule weekly phone calls if you’re too far away to visit. Remember, kids see this schedule as a promise, so make sure to stick to the schedule.


  • Make audio or video tape recordings to send to your child. Allowing your child to see and/or hear you when you can’t be together will help keep your bond strong.



Last Updated 05/12/2009


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