There are many advantages of living abroad, having a good job and being able to send money home to your family. But hand-in-hand with these advantages come certain disadvantages and challenges, especially when you have children living back home.
Our job as parents is to meet our kids’ emotional needs at each stage of their development so they can advance to the demands of the next stage. While they are teenagers, for instance, they need to feel enough support and be able to depend on us, but we also need to allow them to embrace and explore their own independence. Achieving a delicate balance like this is very difficult when you’re abroad and it’s understandable to be afraid that your current parenting style will affect their future development stages.
Here are a few ways in which to keep strong connections with your kids while you’re working away from home.
- Get the tech
If you’ve always been the parent who shies away from technology and who needs their kids to switch the computer on, you will have to make an effort to change. Get the laptop, tablet or smartphone you need to stay up to speed with your children and the technology they are using to stay in touch. If they prefer video calls with Skype or Facetime, then this is the best way to keep that emotional connection.
- Work together as parents
Whether your spouse lives in the same country as you or they are back home with the kids, it is important to communicate with them before making parental decisions. If you don’t, you might give different messages to your kids and this will ultimately weaken your emotional bond. Make sure you work together as parents first and foremost. Supporting each other will also strengthen your ties with your children and make it easier to keep those ties strong across borders.
- Routine, routine, routine
Children thrive on routine. It may feel like a minor thing to you, but it is very important for their healthy development to have a routine. Days and weeks that are structured anchor children and allow a solid platform around which to plans exciting events. Make sure you also communicate with them within their routine. Plan for a certain day every week where you will phone each other. It is very important that you stick to this routine and that you don’t let your kids down. If you can keep it up, it will become a part of their lives and they will save all the stories and events for you for when you phone.
An emotional connection with very small children
It is much more difficult to stay connected with very young children, because they can’t speak through video calls or phones calls, they can’t type messages and they can’t communicate their feelings to you from far away. There are two clever tricks you can do in this regard.
- Send a shirt home that you have worn.
Very small children can recognize the smell of their parents. Send them a shirt that you have worn, or leave one of your shirts behind. When they are upset, or even when they are simply going to bed, they can hold onto this shirt. It will comfort them in a non-verbal why and remind them of their mom or dad. This has proven to be very effective for children who have a parent that was deployed. The shirt is a great comfort when they are upset.
- Send voice notes and messages
Small children learn to recognize the voices of their parents long before they are even born. They may not be able to understand the words, but they take comfort simply in the voice. Send regular voice messages and notes for your baby or toddler. This will be a great comfort to them, even if they don’t know how to express it.