Children may struggle with their emotions when a parent returns to work, especially if the parent is going away for 3 weeks or more at a time.
Talking things through with your child from a young age can really help.
Below are some tips adapted from advice given to military families to help young children cope when a parent is going away for a period of time.
- Explain why you are going away
Ensuring your child understands why you have to go away to work is very important. Some children, especially very young children, may fear you are leaving because of something they have done.
Try to explain that going away is part of your job, just as going to the office every day is part of other people’s jobs.
- Talk about where you are going and what you will be doing
Showing pictures of your oil rig and explaining its purpose and what you will be doing can really help your little one to visualise your day. This can really help them to cope with your separation.
Try to make it fun for them – print off or draw maps together showing where their home is and where your work place is. Add fun things like helicopters and boats to keep it interesting and engaging.
- Talk frequently about the parent at work
“Daddy loves ice cream. Lets have some after dinner tonight.”
“This is the bracelet daddy bought mummy at Christmas. Isnt it pretty.”
Dropping them into conversation regularly helps to keep their presence in your child’s day to day life.
- Encourage your child to talk about their feelings
Let children know its okay to express that they miss their parent. Talk often about daddy or mummy when they are away and remind the child often how much their parent misses them too.
- Keep routines the same
Children thrive on routines and consistency. Try to keep your routines and discipline the same whether daddy / mummy is home or away.
This needs the cooperation of both parents. Don’t be tempted to change house rules just because. Your child will be comforted knowing that the rules you have established as a family remain the same you adapt into periods as a single parent.