Help! My husband is away…again!
It is 7:20am, 10 minutes before my six-year-old daughter and I are due to leave the house. “Come on.” I say, “It’s time to put your shoes on.” Her top lip begins to quiver, tears come to her eyes, she looks at me and replies, “I miss my Daddy.”
My husband works in the film industry and is away a lot (33 weeks so far this year). We have two realities, one when he is at home and one when he is working away. I know there are many North Star families who experience similar times apart. I thought I would share a few things that work for us and would love to hear any hints that work for you.
Communication is the key to success
- Communication is easier for children if they can see the person they are talking to. Skype and Face Time make face-to-face communication possible and affordable when a parent is working away. However, if reception is a problem phone calls, emails and texts all help a family stay in touch.
- If you are the parent at home send small, regular updates about what you and your children are doing. A photo with one line of text is often more manageable than long chatty emails or phone calls.
- If you are traveling away put your spouse and children’s regular activities into your diary and check the school’s weekly memo and blog so you know about significant events that are happening while you are away.
- Talk about the best time to phone or Skype. You are unlikely to have a good conversation if you telephone in the middle of an important meeting, a favourite TV show…
Transitions are difficult
- Avoid long goodbyes. They are torture for everyone involved.
- When the family is reunited it can take time to adjust. When my husband returns home he is often jetlagged and behind with regular administrative chores. He also wants to spend time with the whole family together, time with our daughter and time with me. It can often take a week to feel that we are back to “normal”.
- The only gift your child wants when you get home is the gift of your time. If you feel you must bring a present back bring a book that you can read to/with your child, a recipe you can cook with your family or photos you can share.
Listen to your child but never allow an absence or reunion be an excuse for bad behaviour
- If a parent travels regularly your family, like mine, has two realities. Talk about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour as a family. If a child is getting the same message from both parents, they will stop playing one parent off the other.
Books that have absent parents can help a child understand their own experiences:
For 3 – 6 year olds I like, Dear Daddy by Phillipe DuPasquier
For 6 – 9 year olds, “Ottoline at School”, by Chris Riddell. It is set in the Alice B. Smith School for the Differently Gifted and deals with a child who finds inappropriate ways to get her parents’ attention. It is a fantastic graphic novel and was the first book that my daughter could not put down.
Finally, treasure the times when you are together and celebrate the uniqueness of your family.