Family Relationships: Staying Connected While Traveling
It is important for dads who spend lots of time away from their kids to keep the bonds strong with their kids while they're not at home. It's also crucial to let kids know that Dad is an important part of the disciplining and decision-making process. This way, kids don't feel like they're getting all fun with one parent and all discipline from the other. Staying involved with the kids while he's away will help him to assume the role of full-fledged parent when he comes home—and will give you some well-deserved support.
I have three suggestions for your partner directly to help him maintain and even strengthen his connection while he is away:
Contact, contact, contact: As much as possible try to have contact with your kids every day: by phone, text messaging, Web cam, email or letters. You don't need to communicate words of wisdom every time you talk with them, but they need consistent, daily contact with you. One way to do this is to establish a time every day when you will be in touch with your family—for instance, 15 minutes before bedtime to say goodnight. Be sure to spend time really listening to your kids during this time.
This also would provide time for a daily wrap-up of how each of the kids did during the day. If there is good news, dad can tell them how proud he is. If there's bad news, he can reinforce Mom's disciplinary actions and emphasize the importance of behaving, doing schoolwork, helping out at home, etc.
Provide physical connection: Try to provide ways for your children to connect to you physically even though you're not physically present. For babies and toddlers, physical connection can be in the form of a piece of clothing that smells like you or a special stuffed animal from you. For elementary school-aged kids, it could be drawings, pictures or notes that they can hang on their walls or keep by their beds or in their backpacks. For teenagers, it could be books, music that can remind them of you, a ball cap, T-shirt, or sweatshirt that has the name of where you are during the week.
Be creative: Try to be as creative as possible with how you communicate with your children. There is a saying that children understand love as time. If they experience you taking the time to write notes, to send postcards, to make phone calls, to send pictures, they will realize that even though you are not around, you think about them just like they think about you.
My last suggestion is each weekend you are home, create an activity just for you and your children. In my family, I have "Los Tres Amigos" time with my twins each weekend morning. We go out to breakfast while my wife sleeps in, and then we do something fun together all morning—just the three of us—at the mall, the zoo, a museum or park, and we're back by lunchtime. My wife loves the time off, and I love the time on!