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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Connecting with your children when work takes you away

There are specific challenges mothers who must work outside of the home face. One challenge is maintaining a connection, a dialogue with her children. As one such mother I thought I would share some of the techniques I have used to maintain a connection with my teenage children

I believe the first step is to meet your children where they are. Each child has a different personality, different needs. My daughter is a chatty Cathy, but my oldest son doesn’t care to talk. My youngest son loves to read and write but the prospect of either of these two activities sends revulsion running through the veins of my other children. Talk to your children. Ask them what they miss most when you are unable to be there, then work to give them what they need.

My daughter loves to talk. What 12 year-old doesn’t? So I make a point of calling her each evening to allow her to share the happenings of her day. What boy does she have a crush on and why? What girls are not so nice and what she is doing to deal with it. What new fashion trends are running rampant through the school? What new plans do her and her friends have for the rest of their lives. I spend thirty minutes listening to what may not be important, but the true importance lies in the listening.

My youngest son loves to read and write. Lately he has shown the propensity for poetry. He, like most children nowadays, checks his e-mail daily. He and I have started writing a poem together. I write four lines and he responds with four and so on. He has shared this activity with his friends and teachers. Not only is he proud of his efforts, he feels connected to his mother through them.

My oldest son is less easy to please. He is 15 going on 40 (anyone with a 15 year old can relate). He is rebellious and aloof by nature. He is also a comedian. One activity that we have found that works for the both of us is brief conversations on the phone to pass only the necessary information then blogging on myspace. Oh, he says he “hates” it when I respond to his postings, but his brother and sister have told me otherwise.

In addition to what I have found to work with my children, I thought I would share a few suggestions from other mothers who work outside of the home.

• Send a postcard to your child just to let them know you are thinking about them when you cannot be home.
• Keep a journal. Share your reflections with your children on their birthdays.
• Video chat is a wonderful way to connect. Your child gets to see you and you them.
• Schedule a vacation day and surprise them when they get home from school with a special after school snack.
• Come up with a special phrase/word that belongs only to you and your child. This phrase/word when spoken/written means, “I love you and I’m thinking about you.”

Whatever means you employ to connect with your child while you are away for work, keep in mind…the means are not nearly important as the end result.

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