Virtual child visitation is slowly becoming more common as technology continues to change the way we form and maintain relationships. In a handful of states, virtual visitation is part of the law and courts are allowed to use it in child custody arrangements.
In some ways, this is a great development - if parents are not in the same city, Skyping is much better than a phone call. But there are also dangers. Some worry that virtual visitation makes it easier for the parent with custody to convince a court that they should be allowed to move to a different city, even though nobody would argue that a videoconference is a reasonable substitute for in-person time.
But for those who are already separated geographically and can arrange for "virtual time", how can you make the most of it?
1) Do Activities Over Video Conference
Do more than just video conference! Don't think of it as a "phone call + picture". Schedule a longer block of time and find fun, creative activities that you can do together. You could each draw pictures and share them with each other, or you could act out different scenes of a play. Having something to do will make conversation more natural and just sharing presence, even online, will strengthen the relationship. You can even watch a movie together - hit play at the same time, point the camera at each other, and sit back and relax, .
2) Play Virtual Games Together
If you're interacting online anyway, why not play some social games together? Find something that you can both enjoy like Draw Something or Words with Friends. Or, if you're more old-fashioned, most board games are also online today and you could play anything from Monopoly to Checkers.
3) Share Interests & Keep Each Other Updated
Try to learn what your children are interested in and get interested yourself. The Internet is the great equalizer - the world's information at your fingertips. If your daughter loves ballet, learn all you can about ballet and share with her what you learn. You can even set up a Google Alert that will send you any major ballet news. Update her on interesting developments by email or just tell her the next time you speak.
4) Send Regular Notes About Life
It's the daily, mundane, boring details of life that are often the ones that are most important. Take pictures of interesting things you see ("Little ducklings walking by the pond!", "Look at this crazy bumper sticker!") and share them. Technology has made it much easier to update our friends on how we're doing - why not family as well?
5) Visit In-Person!
Communicating electronically can still only do so much. Regular visits are still the bedrock of your relationship. After all, it's hard to give a good hug over a screen. Make sure you make the time to visit and spend quality time with your children.
Have any readers had good experiences with virtual visitation? Any other suggestions for how to make it work? Please share!