Connecting With Your Child: 5 Things You Can Do To Stay Close Despite Your Work
Having spent the last two decades working in the advertising industry based in New York but with clients all over the country, being on the road is just something that always came with the job. My wife had always been really supportive of my ambitions and therefore, excessive travel has never been much of an issue.
However, 7 years ago, I became a dad — first to my daughter Hannah and two years later, to our little Sophie.
With fatherhood came the challenges of being away on client engagements (sometimes for a week at a time) and still being able to remain a consistent daily presence in my daughters’ lives.
I am not going to pretend that I got this right, straight out of the gate. For me, it was definitely a bit of trial and error. Eventually, I got my “sea legs” as a dad and found ways to be present with my daughters even if I couldn’t be there physically.
Anyway, what I am about to share with you is by no means earth shattering. However, to my daughters, it has made all the difference in the world. I’ve narrowed it down to my five most tried and true tips for connecting with your child when on the road.
Commit to daily video chats at the same time each day
Now, I know you must think this is the most obvious suggestion.
With the advent of smartphones, video messaging has become table stakes to us all. However, what many adults fail to realize is that for children, sporadic absences of a parent can be very hard for them to acclimate to.
Therefore, it is critical that you not only commit to video chat but that you do so at a set time each day and do not deviate from it.
For my daughters, knowing that at 5 PM every single day they could consistently count on seeing their daddy made all the difference. I realize that not everyone’s schedule is easy to manage, but find a time that you can count on being around for and do your best to stick to it.
Call them every morning at their wake-up time
If you find that your schedule just does not accommodate a consistent breakaway opportunity for a video chat, you can also try working with your spouse to set up a phone call each morning when they wake up. This way, you are the first voice your kids hear before starting their morning off. Together, you can plan what lies ahead of them in regards to the rest of the day.
You can also give them little tasks, like collecting your mail, drawing a picture or even just reporting back on the weather at home. It’s a good way to remind you of the important things in your life.
Create a scavenger hunt in your home
Find a unique object and the night before you leave for a business trip, hide it somewhere in your home. Then, create three to five clues.
Each day that you are away, reveal a new clue to them. You can provide these hints via text or create handwritten notes that your spouse can pass on to them each day after dinner.
I am preparing you in advance that you’ll probably break down and give these clues away much quicker, but in any case, it creates a level of excitement and interaction that you and your kids can partake in no matter how far your travels take you from home.
For us, we use a small snow globe. After years of doing this, we still haven’t run out of hiding spots for it.
Let them help you pack
Something as simple as letting your children help you pack for a business trip can go a long way in helping them to feel just how much they are valued in all aspects of your life. It also takes a lot of the stigma attached to the trip away and shifts the focus to their participation and creative interests.
And in spite of how boring work attire can be, something as simple as the color of a shirt to what tie you pick or even the pattern of your socks will create a level of excitement and accomplishment that is sure to charge up your young helpers. And of course, while you are away, be sure to take a picture of yourself wearing the items they packed.
Bring them home souvenirs and keepsakes from your trip
I really hope your mind didn’t go to that toy display that’s in every airport gift shop and preys on the guilt of working parents everywhere. Listen, toys are always a welcome addition to any child’s bedroom and I’m not dissuading you from raiding the nearest Hudson News. I just recommend that you find something that your kids can get excited about collecting and feels special to you both.
I know it seems like the low hanging fruit, but just postcards can do the trick. You can get them literally anywhere you are.
In the last couple of years, I have become a bit more ambitious. Together, we have been collecting key chains. However, my youngest daughter is in love with the idea of collecting rocks, so that’s a really easy one and it doesn’t hurt that they’re free.
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Author: Joe Cianciotto
Joe Cianciotto is an executive creative director and chief digital officer working in the advertising industry who spent 12 years at DDB NY before breaking off and launching his own client side consultancy L360 and running his parenting blog at JosephCianciotto.com. More than anything, Joe is a father first to his two beautiful daughters Hannah and Sophie who he shares with his incredibly understanding wife Jen where they live in New York.