Working abroad while your children are back home is tough. It means missing out on certain aspects and events in their lives. You literally miss some of the growing up years of your kids, no matter how regularly you try to keep in touch.
You fear that your children will grow up misguided, get into trouble, or stop respecting your authority as parent. In these difficult times, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Many other foreign workers had to leave their families and children behind when they took the job. And you shouldn’t feel bad about it.
Yet your genuine love and concern for you children can be conveyed across borders. You just need to know how.
Start before you leave
Talk to your children as soon as you have certainty about your new job. A lot of the time parents feel guilt about leaving, so they shy away from the issue. But if you’re going to go, the best way to handle the situation is to keep your children informed. They will feel much more betrayed if they found out you were planning things behind their backs for months.
Sit them down and explain to them honestly why you are leaving, how long you are leaving, and how often you will see them or talk to them. Make them understand that your leaving doesn’t mean you don’t love them or you don’t want to be with them.
Also be sure to inform the school the children are going to, especially if they are young. It is important that teachers know when a major life event is taking place. They will also be able to help the children adjust.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It’s understandable that you might not want to involve others in your family business, but you shouldn’t be afraid to call on family members, guardians or parents of your children’s friends. It is literally impossible for you to handle logistical matters, make sure the children get to school when the bus breaks down or pick them up when they’re not feeling well. Rather call on your contacts back home than allowing your child to feel alone and neglected.
Be good with staying in touch
We often excuse ourselves from staying in touch with our friends by saying that we’re “so bad with staying in touch”. This is not an excuse when it comes to your children. If you forget to phone or text, then set reminders, write it in your diary and on your fridge. Do whatever you need to remember that phone call. Chances are your kids won’t contact you first. They are waiting for their parents to ask them how they are doing, even if they don’t want to talk about it.
Make sure you text, phone, Skype and email regularly. This will remind them you are there and you are available to them. Also make sure you don’t start off checking in regularly and decrease your involvement the more time passes. Be consistent. Children need consistency.
Make the most of your time together
You may only see each other once a year or Skype once a week, but make sure the time you have together is reserved for only you. Switch off your phone. Don’t answer work calls. Don’t invite new friends over when you know it’s Skype night. Don’t go out when you know your children are expecting you to phone. When you do get to see each other, do fun things together. Spoil your children with attention and listen to each and every story they want to tell you.
Don’t skip payments
There are few things as embarrassing for a child than having to say they can’t go on a school trip because their parent didn’t pay. International money transfers are so simple you have no excuse to skip a payment. Since you’ll most probably be contributing to your child’s school payments, make sure you do them on time. These transfers go through very quickly, but you still need to make them at least of few days in advance to ensure your children can carry on with their lives without having to worry about your financial dependability.
Be interested in their activities
Watching your daughter do the same dance routine a million times over, or listening to your son play the same guitar chords over and over might become annoying, but don’t become uninterested. These are the things that make them happy and develop their brains. These hobbies and interests will make of them well-adjusted individuals. Your uninterested nature might discourage them from partaking. Your interest and encouragement will help them thrive.
It’s definitely challenging to indulge in the ballet recital or the music concert when you’re in different time zones, but ask them about it afterward and make sure you listen.