HOW TO MANAGE IT

if one of the parents must stay abroad

Introduction

This leaflet contains information for those of you who are facing a difficult situation due to the closure of borders and are forced to stay away from your family and children for a long time, and for those whose partner or parent is stuck away from home long-term.

Your children may have a lot of information about the current situation – some that they might have heard in the media, some from an acquaintance or a relative, some directly from you. Not all of this information is appropriate for their age. Because of this, they may modify the information, distort it, make assumptions, and have all kinds of fears. It is therefore important to know how to talk to them about the situation and how to provide reasonable explanations considering the way they may experience the pandemic and the separation from one of their parents at this stage of development.

In this text, we use the term "parent" to mean the person who must stay abroad and the person who is taking care of the child, even though both can be other close family members whom the child may also miss very much.


GROUND RULES

Communicate with the child honestly in an age-appropriate way

Don’t lie, don’t promise something you can’t fulfill. Always adjust the information to the child’s age. You can find specific tips on how to do it below

Work with the child’s imagination

Help the child understand the situation by imagining it.

Express your understanding of the emotions of the child

Children have a right to be angry, irritated, not to understand the situation, not to believe the parent. Don’t punish them for their emotions, don’t shout at them.

Enable remote contact with the other parent

Try to help the child keep in touch with the missing parent and be prepared that the child’s behavior after the parent’s return may be distant regardless.

Think of yourself as well

Don’t forget to think of yourself and give yourself space to calm down and recharge.

Don’t withhold information

Children are perceptive and know that something is happening. Don’t withhold important information from them and communicate with them about the situation.

Admit your own emotions

Don’t be afraid to admit that you are also experiencing the situation in a certain way. You can find advice concerning this below.

Be patient and kind

Give them the love and care they need. In this situation, they may behave differently than what you are used to, so be patient. You can find the information about how the child may behave and how you can help them below.

Do not forget the rituals

Make sure you follow daily rituals and try to implement them if you don't.

Let the child be a child

The child may want to perform the duties of the missing parent. Be careful that they are not overburdened and that they have enough space to still be a child.

How to manage with an infant?

Or how to help a 0-1 years old child

What behavior is typical during this period?

How may the child be behaving now?

What to do? (How to help your child)

During the separation
Are you at home with the child?

If the child demands more physical contact, provide it.

Are you the parent who must stay abroad?

Communicate with the child remotely.


 

If possible, speak with your child trough Skype even during the separation – sing to them, tell them nursery rhymes, read fairytales and make sure that they don’t forget your voice

If online communication is not an option – for example, due to a big difference in time zones – you can record these things and send those videos to your family regularly.

With an older infant, you can try games and nursery rhymes with the assistance of
the other parent (such as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star).

After the return

If your child avoids you after your return, don’t take it personally – the child is neither refusing you nor punishing you for being gone for a long time, they only do what is normal and natural for them. Don’t be angry with them because of this.

Be patient and connect with your child step by step – speak to them, play with them, be near them, and don’t get sad because of their negative reactions.

At the same time, don’t force the child to interact with you; it is not recommended to be pushy despite their negative reactions. Give them space but try again after some time.

How to manage with a toddler?

Or how to help a 1-3 years old child

What behavior is typical during this period?

How may the child be behaving now?

What to do?

Are you at home with the child?

"Daddy is going to be away now. He must go to work in another city and he can’t go back to us, but he will read fairytales to you trough video. We will watch it after dinner, all right?"

"I see that you are sad because Mom is not here. I am also sad. I would be happy if Mom was here."

"Play with the plushie now, then we will look at the pictures of animals in the book together."


Are you the parent who must stay abroad? Communicate with the child remotely

Try to keep in touch with your child at least remotely. Call regularly, Skype with them. The child may be hesitant to speak with you, especially if they are not used to this kind of communication. Be understanding about this. The child will notice your voice and your virtual presence even if they play in a different part of the room. They must cope with the situation; it doesn’t mean they are not missing you. Give them space and try again in a moment, and then again. Ask the other parent for assistance, for example, to hold the child in their lap for a second. You can also persuade them to cooperate by saying: "I know that you want to play now, but come here and at least wave at Daddy!"

If it’s impossible, for example, due to different time zones, to communicate with the child online, you can record a video for them. You can record for example part of the activities you perform during the day so that the child can imagine how you are doing, where you live, what you eat etc. You can also do an audio recording of a fairytale or a nursery rhyme. The other parent can then play it to the child repeatedly since toddlers love repetition.

How to manage with a preschooler?

Or how to help a 4-6 years old child

What behavior is typical during this period?

How may the child be behaving now?

What to do?

Are you at home with the child?

Are you the parent who must stay abroad? Communicate with the child remotely

 

Try to keep in touch with the child at least remotely. Call regularly, Skype with them. The child may be hesitant to speak with you, they may view your absence as a betrayal. Give them some time, be patient, and after a while offer communication once more, or agree on a sign which the child will use to tell you that they are ready. „I understand that you are mad at me. I can't come home right now, I have to go to work here. When you want to speak to me, turn Charlie the Plushie, and Mommy will call me.”

If it's impossible, for example, due to different time zones, to communicate with the child online, you can record a video for them. You can record for example part of the activities you do during the day so that the child can imagine how you are doing, where you live, what you eat etc. You can also do an audio recording of a fairytale or a nursery rhyme. The other parent can then play it to the child.

How to manage with school children?

Or how to help a 6-12 years old child

What behavior is typical during this period?

How may the child be behaving now?

What to do?

Are you at home with the child?

"Unfortunately I don’t know how long it is going to take before we see Mom again. I also miss her and I am sad that she is not here. But it is not safe now for people to cross the borders so Mom has to stay where she is."

"I am also worried about Dad and hope nothing bad happens to him. But I believe he is doing everything he can not to get infected, just like we are.”

"I see that you don’t want to talk about it with me now, but when you want, just come to me."

"It is nice of you to help me like this! But I will manage to do this by myself, you can go and play again."

"I know that you are angry with Dad and that you are sad because he is not here with us. I would also be happier if he was here."

Are you the parent who must stay abroad? Communicate with the child remotely

Try to keep in touch with your family (call them or Skype with them frequently), talk together,
and spend time with the child.

The child may be hesitant to speak with you; they may view our absence as a betrayal or be angry. Give them some time, be patient, and after a while offer communication once more, or
agree on a sign which the child will use to tell you that they are ready.

"I know that you are angry with me, but unfortunately I can’t come home now, I have to go to work here. When you want to speak with me, just send me a text message or call me and you will hear from me."

How to manage with a teenager?

Or how to help 13 years old and older teenagers?

What is typical behavior during this period?

How may the teenager be behaving now?

What to do?

Are you at home with the teenager?

"Unfortunately, I also don’t know when Dad will be able to get back home. The situation is changing all the time. It may be two weeks but also for several months. Right now it is important for the virus to stop spreading so that we can return to normal life soon."

„I understand that you are upset. Can I help you in any way? Would you like to talk about it?”

„I also miss him very much. But we will make it, you don’t have to worry about me.”

"Thank you for helping me, it means a lot. I will manage to finish the rest by myself."

Are you the parent who must stay abroad? Communicate with the child remotely

Try to keep in touch remotely. Call each other, Skype, send photos and send messages about everyday things through social networks if you use them. However, give your child space as well and don’t overwhelm them with the messages.

Be understanding that at times your child may prefer their friends over you – don’t hold it against them.

"I understand that you have different plans right now. I would still be glad if you made some time for me tomorrow."

Authors: Barbora Břežná, Zuzana Minarik under the leadership of Zuzana Masopustová