Working away from home week-in and week-out is a tough gig; there’s no denying it. Trying to stay connected with your kids while you are working away from home for days, weeks or even months at a time can be a massive challenge.
When you working away, typically we are very busy and before you know it, it is too late to phone home and, depending on where you are, sometimes the time difference means you only have a very small window of opportunity for any kind of communication with your family.
Often we can be so caught up in our work and activities of the job and the people we are working with that we fail to consider what we are actually missing out on (such as building a long term relationship with our children) until it is too late.
But more importantly, although they may not consciously know it, our children really do need us. If you aren’t home with them, someone else will become the parental figure from whom they develop their view of the world (good and bad!).
Some kids will appear to handle your absence perfectly well, whilst others will struggle; perhaps it will show very early in life but more often it will rear it’s ugly head in deep-seated beliefs and behavioural traits that remain with the child well into adulthood.
Children are resilient and most will take just about anything in their stride and adapt. Remember that they are often busy just being kids, and so may outwardly appear to be getting on with their lives but there is always more to it that that. All children need love and guidance to help them develop into happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults. So, if you work away from home a lot, you will need to make a regular effort to connect with your kids throughout their childhood.
Types of people who work away from home
There are only two types of people who work away from home, those that choose to and those who do so out of necessity (not of their choosing). And there is nothing wrong with either, so long as you recognise which one you are and you understand the reasons behind your situation.
If you are a person who works away from home by choice, perhaps it would help if you asked yourself ‘why is this is so?’ Are you running from something or toward something?
If you are regularly away not of your choosing, parental guilt can play tricks with your mind. You may feel sad and lonely and then tend to overcompensate your love for your children when you return home. This can send all the wrong messages.
It also pays to be aware that if we are missing our kids, it is understandable to expect that our children are feeling the same way when in reality they may have been living in their own little care-free world and have hardly missed you.
The good news is that no matter whether you are away of your choosing or not, this does not mean you cannot still stay connected your children.
Stay connected to the kids while on the road with this one simple tip
Children love games so the first tip is to make it fun for them while you are away. Turn it into a game. Hide notes for your kids to find after you have left. This could be under their pillow or in their school bag. You could even leave them with some jokes or a riddle and challenge them to come up with some jokes and riddles for when you get back. Here is a great example of notes a mother has created for her child while she’s away.
For littlies, giving them a topic to draw about is a great way to keep them occupied, and when you return home, it gives you the opportunity to spend immediate one-on-one time together talking about their artwork.
For older kids, riddles and brainteasers are the perfect ways to keep the conversation going and keep them guessing. (Just make sure they don’t Google the answers!)
An added benefit of making your time away fun and thoughtful means that your kids don’t feel like they are missing out when you’re away and may not be as ‘needy’ when you return. Sure, they are still going to be excited to see you, but if you’ve gone the extra mile to keep connected while on the road, they may cut you some slack and give you a bit more downtime when you’re home. In fact, they may just look forward to you leaving again, so the fun and games can continue.
If you are a professional driver or a FIFO worker, this one simple tip is a fantastic and powerful method of staying in touch with your children and keeping them engaged with you. However, if you are away for long periods of time, such as those in the defence forces, you will need to do a bit more long term planning before you go.
When you’re away for a longer period of time, you can still create fun and thoughtful games, you just need to make sure they last a little longer, until you are able to make contact again or are heading home. You could set up a series of riddles to be given to your child only after they have finished the one before. You could also arrange for personal letters and special gifts to be given or sent to you child periodically to let them know that even though you’ve been gone for a while, you’re still thinking of them.
Like any relationship, your relationship with your children will take work and planning. Never lose sight of the fact that they are relying on you, not just to put food on the table and a roof over their heads, but to provide guidance that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
My Super Tip for staying connected with your young children
Each time you are home make a point of sitting with each child and reading them a bedtime story. Make sure you record it with your phone or iPad so that your child can play it back anytime they want and read along ‘with you’.
I used to ‘read’ to my daughter every night when she was little. Her favourite book was Snow White which was filled with big, colourful illustrations. Every night when I was home I would ‘read’ the story. I’d simply turn the pages and make it all up so that the story was different every time. She loved it because although it was the same book every night, there was a different story.
If you were to record a series of bedtime stories that can be played back by the remaining parent or carer, this is a fabulous way to connect with the younger kids and at the same time help to give them a love of books and reading. Not only do they regularly hear you voice and remember you while you’re not there. This tip may be particularly useful for defence force workers or business travellers who are away for extended periods.
Of course this can also work in reverse. How great would it be to find a note or personalised artwork stashed away in your work gear or truck cabin from your little ones? Even having them record a special message on your phone just for you is a great way to get them involved in the fun. Hearing these messages at low points when you are missing your family the most can help to get you through.
And of course, let’s not forget your loving partner. No doubt they would love to receive a thoughtful note or message left in a spot only they will find.
If you take the time to make your family feel special when you cannot be there it will make coming home to them even more sweeter.
Chris is one of our regular contributors. He will be writing a monthly article that will be posted on the second Friday of each month, focusing on maintaining long distance relationships.
We realise that many of the people using our bags spend a lot of time away from their family due to work commitments. We hope these articles help, even if in a small way.
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