Dave returns today from an 11 day work trip and lord that plane can’t get to Auckland soon enough. I find it super hard to parent without Dave as he’s the steady, stable half and I’m the emotionally fractious one who struggles to hold her shit together! The boys seem to get on with daily life without Dave but despite the volume being lowered somewhat in the house (always a welcome change imo!), there are many notable points throughout the day where we all miss Daddy.
Nixon is now 2.2 and this is the first trip when he’s actually shown interest in chatting to Dave on the phone. This helps of course, but is doesn’t assuage the never-ending questions;
Daddy in Nu Ziland?
Daddy on a plane?
You get the picture.
Ethan who’s almost 11 tends to miss the things he does with his Dad, so he’s been dreaming up elaborate fishing trips and getting his tackle box ready because as soon as his Dad walks through the door there’s a HUGE agenda waiting lol. Roll back three years to when Dave was in Europe for 6 weeks and things were a wee bit different. Ethan didn’t articulate it so much as show us in his behaviour and emotional outbursts, how much he was struggling with his Dad’s absence. It took us weeks to get my young man back on an even keel once Dave returned home, travel weary and with lots of laundry!
So, when Maria from Happy Mum, Happy Child asked me if I had any ideas to help her 3 yo daughter deal with increasing separation anxiety when her Dad travels, I put my thinking cap on and came up with some easy to implement tips.
5 Tips to Help Kids When They’re Missing Mummy or Daddy
Make the absence visible
Missing Mum, Dad or a significant other caregiver isn’t something to be brushed off and glossed over. Acknowledge how little ones are going to feel and give them tools to cope. Make the time away something tangible that they can see and measure by printing out a blank calendar page like this one and marking the number of days until Mum/Dad return. Combine this with a big goofy picture of
the damn parent that gets to escape from the house your other half and you’ve got yourself a DIY shrine to your significant other! Just what you always wanted lol.
Give Little an Important task to do
Creating a ‘responsibility’ will initiate purpose and a little distraction. If Dad has a ‘very special’ task that he normally does, like feeding the dog, enlist your Little Guy to take over this job, emphasizing that we must ‘soldier on’ and all pitch in without Daddy…….I know, I know lol. If this is out of the question try entrusting a very ‘special’ item belonging to Travelling Mum/Dad into the care of your little person.
Ooohh, look, there’s mail for you!
A short, pre-written daily note from Mum/Dad ‘arriving’ in the mailbox could be just the ticket to getting through each day. Keeping the travelling parent front and foremost in Little’s mind really is key I think. This way they are less likely to experience sudden pangs of ‘OMG I miss …….. so much!’.
Make use of the myriad ways we can use technology to keep in touch. Send texts, pxt, FB messages, emails to the travelling partner, use IG, Skype, Facetime and let your Little take the lead here. Help them to make a list of three things to tell Mum/Dad about their day at kindy or school and encourage your partner to tell them 3 interesting things about the place they’re working. Familiarity with what each other is doing will help to minimise the ‘strangeness’ of someone being away.
Plan Something to Look Forward To
Make homecoming a double whammy. When Dave arrived home from 6 weeks in Europe, 7 year old Ethan was sure that what Daddy would want most in the world was a disco. In our lounge. So ::sigh:: we shopped for disco snacks, made a playlist of all of
Ethan’s Dave’s fave Katy Perry songs, we pulled the blinds and my jet lagged husband had a cracking time limbo-ing and eating Twisties. Kids LOVE this shit, plus it will give them something to focus on and plan, rather than fretting about missing their Mum/Dad constantly.
Somedays will be rough, I guarantee it. Maybe most days if I’m being completely honest. When your routine changes in a household due to one parent travelling, take liberties, run with it! I order Ethan a Pita Pit for lunch now and then when his dad’s away, we eat breakfast for dinner and we have Fish ‘n Chips! – Dave hates all of these things so we pony up and make the most of our time sans Dad.
Good luck Mama’s, and if all else fails, there’s the TV, YouTube and wine xx