It can be hard for children when a parent is working away. Around every six months, my husband has a month away with work. My youngest (Vin, he’s just one) hasn’t really noticed so far, but my eldest (Ted, he’s four) definitely does. He’s sad, he misses daddy and he finds it difficult to cope with the challenges of life. I’m still working on ways to help them with missing their dad while he’s away, but here are a few of the things we do to make time apart a little easier.
· Preparation. Ted doesn’t like to have things sprung on him, so I always make sure we’re open about when daddy will be away, so he’s ready.
· Count-down to cuddles. As soon as daddy leaves, we start the count-down to him coming back. It’s hard for little ones to understand the idea of time (remember how long summer holidays seemed when you were a kid?) but a simple calendar that Ted has helped to make is a useful tool for explaining.
· Fun! Yep, I’m talking distraction. I make sure we have our own plans for the day daddy leaves – often we’ll go to see my parents – so we don’t dwell on how much we’ll miss him. Having a few nice things to look forward to really helps to break up the time.
· Voice notes and bad jokes. Neither my husband or Ted are great on the phone – they just don’t like it. But they’ve found their own way to communicate through WhatsApp voice notes. They mostly send each other really bad jokes (like, really really bad) and it helps them stay connected.
· Huggable Heroes of daddy. Cuddly daddy isn’t quite the real thing, but he makes bedtimes run so much more smoothly and soothes fragile feelings when times are hard.
· Looking after mum. Solo parenting can be a challenge at times, so I try to be gentle with myself as well as the children. Now is not the time to try to be supermum! I’m much more able to be there for Ted and Vin if I have the odd early night with a hot chocolate and a book instead of worrying about the laundry pile.
So that’s us! It doesn’t work all the time, and with the boys so young it feels different every time, but we make it work. Every family will have their own way of coping and I’d love to hear your tips!