How to parent away from home
Here are some tips to become a parent despite the distance between overseas working parent and child-- from a mother who has experienced the challenge.
The times have changed dramatically. Prices of basic needs including food, water, electricity, clothes, housing and transportation have gone up. Many families earn income that can hardly make both ends meet. Thus, many parents have become busier in working for a living even to the point of leaving their children behind just to provide for the needs of their family.
What was once a family that lives together need to separate in order to survive. And here is where the dilemma of parenting comes in. How can a working mom or a father who has to work overseas become a good parent to his or her child or children? This is a question I asked myself and what I also asked from people who are working away from their children. I have heard varied answers which I synthesize to these suggestions and ideas.
- Communicate with your child. Take time to call your child regularly. With the accessibility to the world wide web and social media such as Facebook, Skype, Yahoo Messenger and other network websites, communicating to your child is just a click away. You can readily call, see and chat with your child or children with the use of the computer. If you have limited access to this, then calling on the phone would be the best option. If you have more than one child, talk to them individually. And remember, communicating also means listening. So listen to your child. Don’t do all the talking. Make him or her say his or her thoughts and feelings as well as his or her activities and interests.
- Praise your child when he or she has done something good. Recognize your child’s good deeds and achievements. For example, you learned from your spouse that your child has excelled in his or her studies, tell him or her that you are happy with his or her achievement or success. In this way, you encourage him or her even when you are not there physically.
- Assure them that you will support them and provide their basic needs but not their wants. Show support to your child when he or she will engage into a competition, challenge or a new endeavor. My friend Sam, a father to 3 daughters and 1 son makes it a point to call before and after any of his children will engage in a competition in school. He encourages them and boosts their confidence level. And he is the happiest father of all when he knows that his child has excelled.
- Remind your child of things that he or she should do and the things he or she should refrain from doing. The distance between you and your child should not stop you from telling him or her what he or she should do and not do. This reminders will guide your child to the path he or she will take as if you are still there with them.
- Read a bedtime story to your child even if you are not at home. You can make use of a video call through Skype or Yahoo Messenger. If not, you can record a bedtime story with the use of a video camera and send it as a file for your spouse to show to your child. He or she can play this over and over again. Though you won’t be able to interact with each other but your little child will love this. I remember when my eldest and second daughters were already two years old, they would ask me to read a story for them before going to bed and it’s something I missed doing. So, I send them a video recording of a story I have read.
- Ask your spouse to send you a video recording of your child’s activities at home, in school, at play, or anywhere else. In this way, you get to see your child’s development. Your child will also feel that you are still watching them even though it’s on video. As a long-distance parent, you won’t be able to feel much homesickness because you can play the video again and again and watch your child do what he or she can.
- Send letters, cards and/ or gifts to your child. Even if messages can now be sent through email, your child will be very happy to receive something from you. Children likes to see and hold tangible things so sending them anything now and then will be a good idea.
- Talk about the things you will do when you come home and see each other again. This is a time when both of you can be excited about just like when my eldest daughter would ask me when will I be coming home. I would tell her that I’ll be home by the time her birthday comes. And she would be telling what she wants me to bring and what she will do. She gets very excited for my homecoming as I am very excited too.
- Keep your promises. Do not promise anything you cannot keep. When you schedule a time for you to talk, make sure you make it on time. If you promise to grant her request then give him or her that request. If you promise to come home at a scheduled date, then you should keep it. Don’t make your child doubt you by not doing what you said.
- Always say “I love you.” Never forget to tell your child that he or she can count on you. Assure him or her of your love and care even when you are far away for the time being. These are three words that you would also love to hear from your child when you talk to each other. It will be something that will keep you strong in times when you feel homesick.
Try out these different ways of being a parent even when you’re not at home. And find out what works best for you, your child and your family.