Does your job keep you away from your family? Whether working long hours, or long deployments, you have to do your best to still be there for them. A decade or so from now, your kids are going to have some type of mental scar, and the scar I’m mostly concerned about has a name… “Daddy Issues”. So, if you’ve mastered the 10 Lessons Learned for New Dads, here are some level two tips on how to stay connected with family during and after deployment:
1. Use Technology:
The ability to video chat, using programs like Skype, has made it easier for you to connect to your family and have face-to-face conversations with them. You can easily see what your kid is doing and feel at home… almost like dad never left. So, video chatting is certainly a surefire way to show your kids how much you care. Even if you are busy, (and your mornings are their evenings) just take out a few minutes when all of you can come together… and try to be consistent.
2. Set a Goal to Talk to Them Every Day, Even if Only for a Few Minutes (or Words):
Whatever method you apply to stay in touch with the family, nothing can really replace verbal communication. If you can’t “Skype”, try calling. If you can’t call, try email. Either way, set a goal to contact them every day so that they can feel relieved and reassured. At least one of them is subconsciously having a hard time coping with your absence, so hearing your voice as a lover, counselor, or disciplinarian can help reset the damage clock due to time and distance. Lack of communication can kill your relationship. Ask your kids about their school or friends and how they are doing; listen to them carefully when they talk. I know their stories can be boring, and Junior doesn’t pronounce his “R’s” clearly yet, but actively listen.
3. Send Gifts:
I’m not suggesting you throw money at the problem, and get them an expensive XBOX or car. Keep it small, you don’t want them to be too excited when you deploy, for the sake of expensive gifts. Gifts are a token of love, and sending gifts with personal messages makes everyone happy. You don’t have to buy something they need, just get what you think they would like, and maybe a post card. This will not only fulfill their excitement of getting gifts, but also anchor their love for you.
4. Small Vacations:
Now that you are back from deployment, or home for R&R, do not take that time for granted. Although you might hardly get enough time to relax, when you have the weekends off, keep it aside exclusively for your spouse and kids. Do not assume your spouse can fulfill your space in their lives. Go on small weekend tours with your family and note how they cling to you for guidance. When distance becomes detachment, the warmth of a relationship withers away. So if you want to keep it alive, take some time out for them, no matter how much you are bogged down in your professional life! In a nutshell, get out of the house!
5. Quit Your Job, Find a New One, or Modify the Hours:
It’s a tricky dilemma, you want to be physically present for your kids, but you also want to massage your career minded ego. Meditate and assess your situation, you may be doing too much. In the end, you need to keep a watchful eye on those kids, because if they can get away with something, then they will try to. And if you are not on scene to call “training time-out” for on the spot training, who will? Police will, judges will, gangs will, STDs will… you get the picture. Don’t get caught in the rat race.