I’m kind of all over the place when it comes to my emotions right now. As someone who struggles with anxiety, it can be slightly overwhelming at times. So much is weighing on my shoulders that sometimes I just think “how am I going to do all of this?” But somehow I do. I mean, what choice do I have, right?
We always go through the same sort of adjustment period when my husband leaves for extended periods of time. Kids are so resilient yes, but they also know and feel when their routine is disrupted. It can be as simple as knowing it’s almost dinner time when Daddy walks through the door to not seeing him sitting on the sidelines at the soccer game. But it can also be more complicated, like rolling over and not having your Daddy next to you in bed at night or falling down and wanting him and only him to kiss your boo-boo.
So how do you help your kids adjust when a parent travels for work? Here’s how we do it:
We keep our routine. Even though parts of our routine may not include him or may take longer because there’s only one of me and two of them, I try my best to keep them on a schedule. With so much changing, keeping them in the same activities, bedtimes, etc will give them some sort of structure and familiarity.
Make a big deal about their day. We talk about our days and remember all of the things we want to tell Daddy. It can be trivial things like what they wore to school that day to more complex things like what they learned during math. Keeping the communication lines open with them makes it easier to keep the lines open with Daddy. We also take pictures everyday and send them to him, or keep them for him to see when he gets back.
Ask them questions about their feelings and listen. Not just things like “how was your day?” or “who did you sit by at lunch today?” But ask them things like “how did it feel to score three goals?” or “what can I do to be there for you?” Now of course this depends on their age but you’d be surprised at how much kids will be able to tell you if you ask.
Be empathetic. Although you may be having a hard time too, you know how to express yourself. You can call your friends to talk or cry if you need to. But children have a harder time expressing themselves when they don’t exactly know what they’re feeling. Is he coming home? When is he coming home? Why did he have to go? Who will play superheroes with me? Does he miss me? We can only guess these are some of the things they feel when a parent has to go away for work but we don’t really know. Because they can’t explain it to us exactly how they think and feel it.
Take care of yourself. It can be a lot to handle when a spouse has to go away for business. And since the kids only have you to rely on, you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. This will help keep your mind clear and allow you to be as relaxed and attentive as you need to be. Schedule a massage, spend some time at the gym, CALL A BABYSITTER! And don’t feel bad about any of it. You need a break too mama (or dad!).
It’s hard for everyone, including the one who has to go away. But keeping your cool and staying on schedule as much as possible are two of the biggest factors in making it through it. I’m not perfect and I have my moments of failure. Like you want cookies for dinner? Sure, I don’t care anymore. Or letting a cuss word (or two) slip when they spill red Gatorade on new carpet. But you’re human. You’re doing the best you can and trust me, I’m sure they think you’re doing a better job than you give yourself credit for.
For those of you who have spouses who travel, how do you make it a smooth adjustment for the kids? I’d love to hear some tips below!