Supporting Kids When a Parent is Away for a Long Time

August 7, 2022

Being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer, but it can also be one of the most challenging.

Although no parent wants to be away from their child, there are ways we can still support our kids and be present in their lives, even when we're miles apart. In this article, we'll explore some tips for supporting kids when a parent is away for a long time.

General Tips for Supporting Kids When a Parent is Away

Children are smarter than we often give them credit for and they can sense things much more than we realize. They know when something is wrong, even if we don't say anything. Be honest with them about the situation and explain why you're going to be away. It may not comfort them right now, but they'll appreciate your honesty later on.

Whatever your specific circumstances, there are some general tips you can follow to help support your kids when you're away:

Stay in touch

Whether it's through video calls, letters, or postcards, open communication lines are crucial. It can be tough, especially if you're not used to being apart, but it's so important to let them know you're thinking of them and that you still love them.

Be present when you are with them

When you do have the chance to be with your kids, make the most of it. Actively listen to what they have to say and give them your undivided attention—for techie parents, that means no phones! It can be hard listening to them talk about their day-to-day lives when you feel like you're missing out, but toughing it out will benefit them more in the long run.

Create routines and traditions

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When you're away from your kids, it's more important than ever to create routines and traditions. This will help them feel a sense of stability and normalcy in their lives. Try to do things together that you can look forward to, like reading a bedtime story over video chat or having a picnic over Skype.

Be reliable

It's important to be as reliable as possible when you're away from your kids. If you say you're going to call them at a certain time, make sure you do. And if you can't for some reason, let them know as soon as possible.

Many parents can't stand canceling ahead of time, but it's always better than not showing up at all. Your kids will understand if you have to cancel sometimes, but they'll be much less likely to trust you if you're constantly flaking on your promises.

Don't overcompensate with gifts

It's only natural to want to make up for your absence by showering your kids with gifts, but try not to overdo it. Of course, there's nothing wrong with sending them a present now and then. But if you're constantly buying them things, they may start to think that's the only way you can show them you love them.

Get help from others

This could be a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or family friend. These people can provide your kids with the support they need in your absence and help to fill the void you're leaving behind.

How to Navigate Common Scenarios

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The general tips we mentioned above can be applied to any situation, but there are some common scenarios where you may need to adjust your approach. Let's go over a few of the most common scenarios and explore some tips for each.

Parents who work overseas

Many parents have to leave their children for work-related reasons. Whether it's a job in another country or extended business travel, some jobs require parents to be away from home for long periods.

If you work overseas, staying in touch with your kids is even more important. You'll want to set a regular schedule for calls and video chats so they know when they can expect to hear from you.

You should also try to be flexible with your schedule in case there are any time differences. If you're in a different time zone, it may be difficult to talk to your kids during their usual bedtime routine. So you may need to adjust your schedule and call them earlier or later than usual.

Parents who are incarcerated

The most important thing you can do for your kids if you're incarcerated is to explain the situation to them in a way that they can understand.

Maintaining healthy and constant communication with your kids is especially important. Incarceration limits your ability to communicate with your kids, so it's best to be upfront about what you can and can't do. 

It's also important to make sure your kids know that they're not the ones who did something wrong. There's no need to sugarcoat the situation, but you don't want your kids to think they're responsible for your incarceration.

Parents facing health issues

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If you're dealing with a health issue that requires you to be away from your kids, it's important to keep them updated on your condition. Let them know what's going on and how you're feeling.

You should also try to include them in your treatment as much as possible. If you're in the hospital, send them pictures or videos of your room. And if you're undergoing a specific treatment, like chemotherapy, explain to them what it is and how it works. This helps them feel like they're involved in your care and gives them a better understanding of what you're going through. 

No matter what situation you're in, it's important to stay connected with your kids when you're away from them. By following the tips above, you can make sure your kids feel loved and supported, even when you're not there in person.

Author: Sophia Young