It is easier than ever before to stay in touch with your child, even from a distance. Learn 10 ways to use technology to communicate and bridge the distance when you cannot be in person.

The recent case out of New York where, according to Fox News, the Judge allowed a mother to move with her child from New York to Florida, but court-ordered access by the father through Skype, sheds light on the challenges of parenting in this new time of mobility. The good news is that modern technology provides valuable ways for parents to stay in touch, even over the miles, and Skype is not the only option.

 

Texas was the third state in the US to mandate frequent contact between parents and children via electronic communication. “The law usually lags behind in keeping up with technology, but in Texas, parents have options available to request electronic access to their children in the right situation, says Dallas Divorce Lawyer Michelle May O’Neil, a Texas board certified family law specialist.

  1. The Telephone. Agree or disagree, most kids these days have cell phones. This can be a benefit in staying in touch over a distance because it gives the parent and child the flexibility to make contact directly. The parent does not have to go through the other parent to reach the child, therefore reducing the potential for conflict. And, the child can be at home or anywhere else to be reached.
  2. Text messaging. It’s all around us. People are texting while driving and cities are passing laws prohibiting it. Teenagers are being banned from having cell phones in school because they are distracted by texting. Many teens conduct full relationships over text without ever speaking in person. A parent can get in on this act by communicating with the child via text message and sharing short ideas back and forth even over great distances.
  3. E-mail. E-mail remains the number one method of communicating over the internet. In parenting, it allows the child and parent to exchange private conversations. One benefit of using e-mail is that the e-mail can be created and sent when the parent is available and read by the child when the child is available, allowing for flexibility in scheduling.
  4. Instant messaging. Many instant messaging programs exists that allow people to exchange messages in real time over the internet without picking up the phone. Yahoo messenger or Windows Messenger or other similar programs provide a way for parents to have a quick exchange with their child in a forum that will be familiar to the child.
  5. Skype or other video conferencing. The internet provides options for free or inexpensive conferencing over the internet, including video conferencing. Skype seems to be the most talked about service, with some judges getting into the act by ordering Skype access. Video conferencing allows the parent and child to see each other and make face-to-face contact. “I have one client who lives in the U.K. and her son lives in Texas. They use Skype to keep in touch weekly,” offers O’Neil.
  6. Facebook. Teenagers and others use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, but parents can also stay up on the activities of the child by reading the posts and responding. If the child posts about a bad day or negative event, the parent can use the opportunity to cheer up the child. As a side benefit, a parent can also keep up with the child’s friends on Facebook.
  7. Twitter. Like a combination of texting and Facebook, Twitter is a forum that allows users to post very short status updates about their thoughts and activities. A parent can subscribe to the child’s posts and read or comment on what is going through the child’s mind at the moment.
  8. You Tube. You Tube provides a way for users to post videos of their observations. Parents can use this in keeping involved in the child’s life by, for example, posting a video to share with the child of some event going on at the parent’s home while the child is with the other parent. Bringing a new puppy home? Make your long-distance child a part of the event by recording it and sharing the video on You Tube.
  9. Flickr. Much like You Tube, a parent can use Flickr to post photos of events and share with the child. If the child is involved in a school play but the parent cannot attend, have the child or other parent take pictures and share on Flickr.
  10. Whiteboard. Whiteboarding is similar to instant messaging in that the communication occurs in real time. But, whiteboarding stands apart in the ability to draw, use shapes, collaborate over images, and use voice chat while doing it. A parent can use whiteboarding to help a child with homework. “One client I have bought the same math book the child uses in school and then uses a whiteboard website to help the child understand his homework, even when the parent is across the country,” offers O’Neil. Scriblink.com is one example of a free whiteboard website.

Time and effort, says O’Neil, are the important factors in maintaining a relationship over a long-distance between a parent and child. The internet provides many tools that can help a parent and child creatively stay in touch.

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.