There are many families where parents have to be separated from their children for an extended period of time - it could be from Monday to Friday because the parent works in another city or it could be for a few months as a parent works in a faraway place like a ship or another country or in the military.
So how do you keep the parent-child relationship healthy and beneficial to the child? Read on for some tips.
Children need to understand why their parent is away from them. They will look around among their peers and notice that most have both parents around. Being sensitive, they may think the separation is their fault. So explain why you have to go away, how you will stay in touch and when you will meet them again.
Stay in touch as much as possible with your child. Call on the phone, send SMS', long emails or even write letters to exchange information with your child. Write very descriptively about what is happening with you. If possible, get a webcam and do some video conferencing using yahoo messenger or similar software. Get a digital camera and have your spouse take lots of pictures of the children including photos of their latest activities, arts, crafts etc., and send them to you. Discuss these with your children.
When distance separates parents, decisions about children often have to made individually. It is important that each parent support the other in their decisions, especially in front of the children. Reserve any criticism for a private chat between the parents. The children should see a united front of parents.
When you come home, irrespective of the length of the absence, do not exhibit guilt. Children can easily notice these emotions and become confused. When dealing with them, the absent parent tends to be more lenient and lets the children get away with more. Resist the urge to allow this. It makes the job harder for the parent who stays with the children, as children will start comparing one parent with another.
When you are with your child, find an activity that only you do with him or her. It could be a visit to a bookstore that is far away, a visit to a big park, a game that you play (chess) etc. It can be anything!! The idea is to find something that is interesting to the child and that is associated with you in the child's mind. Mention this activity to the other parent so they know this is reserved for you. This activity gives you and your child something to look forward to when you meet again.
Remember, children seldom question the motives of parents and dealing with them in a simple and honest fashion is the best way to achieve a good parent-child relationship.
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