When my two-year-old son sleepily said goodbye to his Daddy recently early one morning, I knew what he didn’t: Daddy was going away for a few weeks. Once Oliver realized I knew he’d be sad that Daddy wouldn’t be there to play with, to kiss his head when he bumps it, or put him to bed. Daddy also would lament all of the missed snuggles, story times, silly faces, and all of the other ways they connect with each other on a daily basis.
There are lots of kids across the world, including in Canada, the United States and Australia, who spend at least some time away from a parent, whether it’s because their parents are separated or divorced or because one parent is away on a business trip. When you find yourself as the parent in those situations, how are you supposed to maintain a strong connection with your kids when you don’t get to see (or possibly even hear from) them every day?
5 Ways to Connect With Your Children When You Work Away
Storytime: One of the first things we did was buy a recordable storybook. Before my husband left, he pulled out Goodnight Moon and recorded himself reading it. He also left Oliver a special message at the end of the story, so when my husband is away my son can still hear him saying, “I love you very much.”
Videos and Photos: Another way for you to let your children hear your voice is by creating home videos of the fun things you do together (just make sure you’re also in the film so they can see you too). Even creating a photo album or scrapbook helps. My son spends hours flipping through our photo albums when my husband is away and every time he comes across a picture of his father he gets all excited and yells “Daddy!”
Snail Mail: If your kids are anything like mine, they love getting letters and care packages in the mail. My husband buys our son a postcard every time he stops somewhere new on his trips, so we bought Oliver a special box to store them in. Then we can pull them out and read them whenever Oliver misses his Daddy and needs to be reminded that Daddy loves him.
Virtual Dates: Another way for you to stay connected with your children is to have a virtual date with them. Pick an online video game you both like (or that your child does and you’re willing to try for their sake). Or set up a video call so you can watch a movie, read them a story, or make a craft with them. If you are really on the ball, you could even mail them the movie, story, or craft supplies as a care package before your date takes place so your kids can get all excited about your activity.
Making the Most of Times You Can Talk: If you are lucky enough to chat over the phone or online, try not to waste your time asking “yes” or “no” questions. Ask them what their favourite part of the day was, how they felt about a test they had to take, or if they have any plans coming up that they’re excited about (like a friend’s birthday party). Don’t forget to tell them how you are doing and about anything exciting you’ve been doing – they’ll want to know. And remember, they might not want to talk on the phone but that usually doesn’t have anything to do with you, so don’t be surprised if it’s only a short call.
While being apart from each other is tough on my husband and son (not to mention me), it’s great to see the relationship the two of them have with each other, even though they have to spend time apart.
For more on making family life work when your family is apart, check out Christina’s post;
About Christina: Christina Van Starkenburg is a freelance writer, military spouse, and mother of two who blogs about parenting at The Book & Baby. She lives with her family in Victoria, B.C. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.