Raising family from a distance – Part 2
Out on the ocean sailin’ away
I can hardly wait to see you come of age
But I guess, we’ll both just have to be patient
‘Cause it’s a long way to go, a hard row to hoe
Yes, it’s a long way to go but in the meantime
Beautiful Boy – John Lennon
In last week’s Family and Religion, Dr Patrece Charles of the Phoenix Counselling Centre shared about the challenges families often face when parents decide to seek employment abroad, leaving their children behind.
One of those challenges, she noted, is the feeling of abandonment that these children have because their parents are absent from the home. They feel like there is something missing in their lives.
“Resentments could spark misunderstanding between children and their parents, despite sincere efforts by parents to create better relationships. These are some of the downsides of families when parents go abroad to work,” noted Charles.
While there are many negatives to parents leaving their offspring to pursue work overseas, Charles noted that on the flip side, those children are often the beneficiaries of their parents new-found ability to splurge on them. They are showered with the trendiest clothes and shoes, and the latest in expensive gadgets in the form of computers, cell phones, games, etc.
“In most cases, also, parental migration determines the rise in the economical quality of life of the family. Besides their economic well-being, these children have been taken more frequently on overseas trips, compared to other children,” she observed.
Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the situation, Charles said some children, especially those whose main love language is gifts, receiving a barrel filled with all the things they have requested would be received with love. However, she warned that parents should be mindful of distorted gift giving, as it may be tempting to shower children with gifts as a substitute for not being present in their lives, and to relieve the guilt that they feel for not being able to attend the important events or witness important milestones in their children’s lives.
“I advise parents who live away from their children to be mindful of their gifts becoming easier to give than their emotional involvement.”
It is for that reason Charles said special attention should be given to ensure that children who have issues with their parents being away from the home be attended to before it is too late.
Among the signs she said to look out for is inappropriate behaviour at home and school, oftentimes displayed as rebellion against authority figures.
Some, she said, display lack of regard and respect for their guardians, and fall back academically in their schoolwork.
“Some will have insomnia or experience a change in their eating pattern, while others will suffer from depression or withdraw from friends or relatives,” she pointed, out, adding that there will be those who refuse to speak to the parents who are abroad.
Dr Charles advised that such children should be monitored and interventions ready to be given as there are some who entertain suicidal thoughts.
They say things like, “I will kill myself if you don’t come home or take me to live with you.”
She said they will try to make their parents feel guilty in order for them to have their own way.
Talking solutions, Charles said if the children are old enough, the parents should explain to them why they have to go abroad and the good that it will do for the family.
“Parents should ask children how they feel about them leaving and allow them to respectfully express themselves,” she said.
They should also ensure that the home environment in which they leave their children is safe and secure and the guardian is not abusive, Charles noted.
Communication in circumstances like these is key, and it is for that reason Charles advised parents to stay in touch with their children as much as possible in order to keep up to date with their activities.
With so many platforms for communicating available such as Facetime, Skype, Messenger and WhatsApp, she said it is a whole lot easier to talk face to face and to send instant messages.
One very important thing, Charles advised, is for parents to discuss discipline, study habits and household rules with the guardian in order for everyone to be on the same page.
“Make the most of your vacation time when you’re home with your children. Spend quality time boding and creating memorable moments with them,” she said.