Most parents would agree that raising children is one of the most fulfilling, rewarding experiences that life has to offer. From infancy through adolescence and even adulthood, kids depend on their parents for basics like food, shelter, and clothing as well as emotional necessities like love and guidance.
Unfortunately, having a family is also expensive, and the vast majority of adults have to work. For many parents, travel is a job requirement, whether it’s regularly, such as the life of an OTR truck driver; just on rare occasions, suck as overseas travel for corporate conventions; or a short-term stay like oil field workers in the Bakken region of North Dakota. Putting in long hours at the office as well as on the road can take its toll on your family, especially if your children are fairly young.
Even though one parent will obviously have to tackle day-to-day duties like carpool, dinner, and laundry while the other is out of town, it is possible to stay connected to your kids while you’re on the road. Your children will miss you and may have negative feelings about the situation, but try these seven suggestions to help remain involved in their lives.
- Prominently display a framed family photo in your child’s bedroom. Set a photo on your child’s dresser or hang a photo on the bedroom wall where he or she can easily see it.
- Call home regularly. Meetings and appointments run late, but make it a point to call home on a regular basis – daily if at all possible. In fact, call home more often than you think you should!
- Invest in webcams and video chat regularly. These days, most laptops have built-in cameras. Even if your family’s computer does not have one, a webcam is relatively inexpensive. Phone calls are wonderful, but actually seeing each other is even better. Ask your child to show you his homework or pictures that he has drawn, books that he’s reading, or even his favorite toy.
- Read bedtime stories over the phone or on webcam. Pack a few children’s books in your suitcase or carry-on bag, and read them to your child over the phone or while you’re on webcam together. Remind her that you’d love to be there to tuck her in and will do it again just as soon as you’re home.
- Tell your children—often—that you miss them and can’t wait to see them. Young children often mistakenly assume that busy or traveling parents would rather be at work than at home. Remind your children that you miss them and can’t wait to spend time with them! Plan something to do together when you return, perhaps dinner at a favorite restaurant or a trip to the movies.
- Mail postcards from the places work takes you. Emails are great, but make an effort to mail your child a postcard from each city you visit. Create a scrapbook or notebook full of postcards when you get home.
- Bring home a small souvenir each time you travel. Bring something back for your children whenever you have to travel for work. T-shirts are easy to find in airport gift shops, but the gifts don’t have to be big or expensive. They can even be free – perhaps a notepad or pen from the hotel.
- Make sure to involve yourself in the details of your children’s lives when you call. It’s truly all about the details. Even if you have to write yourself a little reminder list to go over when you talk to them, it will make a difference when they know you are actively participating in what is going on for them. Ask what difficulties they faced in school that day and offer suggestions for them. Ask the if they are completing tasks and chores without fussing and make sure to praise them for work well done. Have them tell you what some favorite moments of the day were or if anything new came to them about life in general. Get specific and get to know them.
- Find out how to assist them in dealing with life at home without you. What are the specific challenges it brings up for them and ask them how you can help them work around those things.
- Make sure to ask the parent who remains with the children what things you can do. Often times they will see the needs that you are simply unable to perceive by voice.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but children may not agree. Make a conscious effort to stay involved in your kids’ lives while you’re out of town for work. They grow up before you know it!
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Paul Moore works with a company in the booming North Dakota regions, providing furnished suites for short-to-long-term employees that include all conveniences to keep up with family members.
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